5 Essential Ideas for Nature Photography Workflow

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Nature Photography Workflow Example, Maui, Hawaii

Maui, Hawaii

Waking up to this? Priceless.

This is the view of the island of Molokai from Napili Bay on Maui. It’s not difficult to get out of bed when you are in a place like this. 🙂 You want to get up and get out in the fresh air. We stayed at The Mauian – a beautiful hotel right on the beach – so we just hopped out of bed and grabbed our gear. We were standing on the sand a few moments later, hoping for a crazy sunrise.

It’s hard to go wrong in a place like this if you have a sound nature photography workflow. Here are the essential ingredients that make up my nature photography workflow.


I wanted to get a shot that showed the motion of the water as well as the changing colors in the scene. The deep purple in the clouds seemed to echo the color of the distant island – and the turquoise water seemed to fade into the white foam and then the beautiful, golden sand.


To capture the image I wanted, I used a wide angle lens on a full frame camera so I could get close the wave and the sand in the foreground. If you are shooting on the beach, push the legs of the tripod down into the sand so that the waves don’t move you around too much. The water was calm this morning – but be careful out there. A sudden, rogue wave can do serious damage to you and your camera gear. The ocean should NEVER be taken for granted. No matter how serene it looks.


It is always important to me to remove any distracting elements within the frame in order to keep the image as simple as possible. My first step is to decide what the image is about. If this shot was going to be about color and motion, then I had to be sure that nothing else would pull your attention from those elements. I moved away from the rocks on the beach and placed myself close enough to the water that I could avoid the footprints in the dry sand higher on the beach.

Nature Photography Workflow Example, Napili Beach, Maui, Hawaii

Distraction on left and right side – Napili Beach, Maui, Hawaii (HI), USA

I pointed my camera straight out toward the Molokai, making sure that none of the palm trees on my left were in the shot. I let the distant island stretch from one edge of my frame to the other. And then I started shooting.


Because my wave and foreground sand were very close the camera, I used hyper focal distance to get everything sharply in focus. I had to focus at hyper focal distance and make sure that nothing in frame was closer then half the hyper focal distance. Once in focus, I set my camera to manual mode to ensure that the focus did not change while shooting.


I needed to choose a shutter speed long enough to capture the motion in the waves, but not so long that it would remove the subtle textures in the water. And I needed to capture the shot before a larger wave came up and shifted my tripod – or made me run for it. 🙂 A couple of experimental shots were enough to determine that a 0.3 second exposure would give me exactly what I wanted.

I took several photos, one after another – waiting for the waves to rush towards me before firing. As the light continued to change, I kept shooting, capturing the brilliant colors and beauty of the islands.

I’ve been to Maui three times now – and it’s one of my favorite places in the world – not least because my beautiful grandmother lives there. I visited her and my beloved grandfather on the island for the first time when I was seven years old. It’s a trip I will never forget! All these years later, I got to spend some time swimming with her in the waves on this beach. What a perfect memory! I can’t wait to visit her again!

About Author Varina Patel

There is nothing more remarkable to me than the power of nature. It is both cataclysmic and subtle. Slow and continuous erosion by water and wind can create landscapes every bit as astonishing as those shaped by catastrophic events – and minuscule details can be as breathtaking as grand vistas that stretch from one horizon to the other. Nature is incredibly diverse. Burning desert sands and mossy riverbanks… Brilliant sunbeams and fading alpenglow… Silent snowfall and raging summer storms… Each offers a unique opportunity. I am irresistibly drawn to the challenge of finding my next photograph, and mastering the skills required to capture it effectively.