As a nature photographer and avowed misanthrope, I’ve been practicing social distancing far longer than most people. Although I sometimes still take photos at crowded, iconic locations, I prefer to seek out spots where nobody else is around. So, in theory, social distancing during the current pandemic shouldn’t be too difficult for me to pursue nature photography.
Unfortunately, it’s not quite that simple. Most nature photographers travel long distances to capture their images. If you do this, you may need to stay at hotels and visit grocery stores or public restrooms. These are all good places to avoid during a pandemic.
So, even while most states are reopening, the easiest, and probably wisest, thing to do is to take photos at uncrowded places near your home. In fact, this is a good thing to do even when there is no pandemic. You know the area around your home better than visitors and can head out to shoot at a moment’s notice when the weather looks good. While this can be more challenging than shooting at iconic locations, I believe it can help you improve more rapidly as a photographer. You’ll be forced to focus very closely on the lighting and the composition to try and find images that work.
I’ve provided some tips below on capturing good images near your home.
Try Something New
One of the best things about shooting close to home is that it can force you to break out of your comfort zone. You may have to try something completely new to get an image that works. If you are accustomed to shooting during the day, you could try shooting at night. This time of year, the Milky Way will rise in the east after sunset, so even if you don’t have a great landscape to shoot, you can capture dramatic skies. Of course, there may be too much light pollution near you to photograph the Milky Way. In this case, you could try shooting cityscapes at night. A good thing about being out late at night is that it’s usually much easier to practice social distancing, as there probably won’t be many people out. You can find an instructional article for Night Photography on Visual Wilderness to find inspiration.
After searching the web, I found a small ghost building just an hour from my home (above image). It was just far enough away from Denver to have dark skies during the Geminids shower.
You could also attempt to photograph objects inside your own house. You might be surprised at the things you can photograph that you’ve long taken for granted. You can try taking some abstract images by looking for interesting colors or patterns.
Another option would be to learn how to capture images form a drone. If you have a big, empty open space near your house, it’s a chance to learn how to fly and operate the camera from the drone. You can view an article about drone photography on Visual Wilderness.
Break Out the Macro Photography Lens
My favorite thing to do when shooting near my home is to get out my macro lens to pursue nature photography. You may not have big, spectacular landscapes near your home, but there will always compelling, miniature worlds right at your feet. If you get down low and really work hard to find a good composition, with good light, you can get great images of flowers, insects, rocks, or even blades of grass. If you don’t have flowers nearby, you could order some to photograph. You can also practice focus-stacking images since you have limited depth-of-field when shooting with a macro lens.
Something as simple as blades of grass can make a compelling photograph if you spend enough time looking for the right photography composition as seen in the photo above.
If you search for macro photography on Visual Wilderness, you’ll find lots of great instructional articles.
Open Google Earth
If you search Google Earth Pro, you might be surprised at the places you can discover near your home. You can look at photos others have uploaded and go to Ground-Level view to get an idea of what the terrain looks like. If you own a drone, you can look for unique perspectives of places that may not seem too interesting from the ground but that can be compelling from the air. You can also search for photos taken near your home on a site like 500px.com.
Last year, I found an incredibly beautiful landscape with many lakes just 30 miles from my home. This space holds the City of Boulder’s water supply and has been closed to the public for over a century. Fortunately, they don’t control the air space, so I was recently able to fly my drone near it and capture a very rare nature photo of this area.
Always Be Ready to Shoot
With the right light and the right clouds, even the most boring scenes can come alive. You can shoot spectacular sunsets, sunrises, or storm clouds very close to home.
I made a long, arduous journey to my driveway to photograph this spectacular sunset in the nature photo above. I was able to hide the neighboring houses by only including a lit bit of foreground and rendering it as a dark silhouette.
I hope this article has inspired you to get out and pursue nature photography nearby, no matter where you live. With perseverance, patience, and practice, you can find the extraordinary in the ordinary.