Critical Skills for Nature Photography: Focus & Exposure

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Can you believe that this photo was taken by Nora when she was 13? Yep, 13 and shooting in manual mode. No, she’s not a child photography prodigy, just someone who was taught a simple workflow for focusing and exposing properly.

These two aspects of photography–focus and exposure–are critically important to capturing a shot like this. Prior to shooting, Varina had already advised Nora to use her camera’s auto focus tracking mode and to keep focusing squarely on the bird’s eye in her viewfinder. When the cormorant emerged from the water with a big fish in its beak, Nora was ready. Or at least she thought she was ready.

When Nora saw the bird catching the fish, she grabbed her camera and started shooting right away. Watching over her shoulder, Varina quietly suggested that she check her histogram. In the panic of the moment, she was worried that she’d miss the shot.

Florida, USA

Florida, USA

When she nervously glanced at her histogram, however, she saw that her photos were severely underexposed (above image). She made a very quick manual adjustment and took several more shots as the bird swallowed the fish whole.

If she hadn’t taken that moment to check her histogram, she would have been left without a single shot of that fantastic moment. Quick thinking and an understanding of her histogram made for a beautiful action shot!

Even a 13-year old can learn to read a histogram and make manual adjustments to her camera’s settings. It’s easy! Here are some more images Nora took that day using her focusing skills and her knowledge of histograms.

  • Florida, USA

    Florida, USA

  • Florida, USA

    Florida, USA

  • Florida, USA

    Florida, USA

Moments like this one motivated us to create our newest video course called Histograms Exposed.  Furthermore, we have partnered with a fantastic professional photographer named David Kingham to bring you Practical Lightroom 2017.10 tutorials. In this tutorial, David demonstrates his simple Lightroom Workflow as he masterfully processes some of the images in the case study section of our Histogram Exposed course.

Histograms Exposed and Practical Lightroom 2017.10 work hand-in-hand to guide you from shooting in the field to creating a finished image. We will start on location and end with a beautiful product, demonstrating an effective workflow as we go. No more guesswork or hoping for the best. No more poorly-exposed or poorly-processed photos. Just the strength of your histogram working with the raw power of Lightroom to bring you high quality, professionally-processed images every time.

Check out the following tutorials on Visual Wilderness:

  • Essential Photography Filters

  • Landscape Photography Tutorial - Getting it Right in Camera V1 Cover

    Getting it Right in Camera Vol-1

  • Landscape Photography Tutorial - Getting it Right in Camera V2 Cover

    Getting it Right in Camera Vol-2


About Author Jay Patel

I could startoff like this – “Seeds of Jay Patel’s appreciation for beautiful places were planted early in his childhood….” but it would get boring really fast. I will just sum it up and say that I am a Landscape and Wilderness Photographer who loves to capture dramatic light. My photographs have been published in various magazines, calendars and advertising materials throughout the world.
Patience is a virtue...unless you are chasing your dreams