Frosty mornings, dewy leaves changing colour, birds migrating for the winter; nature-lovers have plenty to get excited about as summer turns to autumn. No wonder then that this time of year is one of the most popular for outdoor photography.
But you don’t need to be a professional photographer to capture the highlights of this golden season. By following a few tips anyone can take quality pictures to enjoy revisiting time and again – no matter what your skill level.
This enjoyable activity, which involves taking pictures themed around an area or route, is a great way to boost creativity and develop your photography.
Take your camera with you as you wander and you can create a collection of images to share on social media, show family and friends or just keep as a memento.
A photo walk is also a known stress-buster; by focusing on the little details that make a place special we are more able to stay in the present and build a deeper connection with our surroundings.
Ready to lace up those walking boots? Read our top tips to help you prepare for your photo walk and get the most out of the day.
Think about your location
One of the best ways to get some practice is by planning a photo walk in your favourite local beauty spot. And, as the colder seasons close in, there are many wonderful walks to choose from across the UK. Once you’ve decided on a place to visit it’s time to do a little extra background research. Consider local attractions, any landmarks with an interesting history and areas that are off the beaten path.
You might choose to search online to see what images have previously been taken of the location and whether there are any common themes. Is there a particular time of day that the area seems to be at its best? Are there any especially good viewpoints to take pictures?
While you don’t necessarily need to plot out your route in detail it’s sensible to have a rough idea of where you plan to walk. And it’s generally better to focus on a short route rather than planning an epic hike. Frequent stops to set up shots and take photos takes time and you don’t want to find yourself rushing to complete the walk.
Be imaginative and creative
Getting the best shots often comes down to timing and imagination. You don’t have to do your photo walk in the daytime, for example. By heading out when night falls you might just capture that owl in flight or moonlight hitting the surface of a lake.
Look for unexpected angles and viewpoints by getting down on the floor or finding something to stand on. Sometimes it pays to stand still and observe the finer detail of your surroundings while in other situations you’ll need to be ready to move quickly to get the shot.
Pay attention to textures and colours as well as more obvious vistas. And look for anything that stands out, such as an unexpected object in a landscape or an unusual pattern.
Challenge yourself to find an interesting image around every corner and don’t worry if you make a mistake – it’s all part of the process.
Get to know your camera properly
When you’re out and about you want to be ready to shoot whenever you see a good image. So it pays to familiarise yourself with your tools before you set off. While many people now use their mobile phone to take photos, professional photographers say you can’t beat knowing the basic rules of photography and learning how to use a traditional standalone camera for high-quality images.
Whatever model you favour, take the time to get to grips with shutter speed and aperture and you’ll be in a better position to experiment with subject and composition during your nature walk. Photographer Ian Howorth says: “Composition is arguably the most important element of photography. Improving your composition will have a dramatic impact on the quality of your photos and help you get more interesting shots.”
Don’t pack too much equipment
While it’s tempting to load up your bag with an array of spare lenses, tripods and external flashes, try to limit yourself to the bare essentials. The purpose of a photo walk isn’t to create perfect, award-winning images but to enjoy the experience and learn. Focusing too heavily on your equipment means you’re less likely to pay attention to what’s around you.
You’ll definitely want to pack a charger or spare batteries and you might want to include an additional memory card. Snacks and a bottle of water are always wise. But make sure everything in your bag is going to earn its keep. Aside from anything else, you don’t want to be walking for a few hours weighed down by a heavy bag.
Remember to be in the moment
The point of a photo walk is not just to get great photos. It’s also about being in the moment. This means it’s important to slow down. Photographer Angela Goodhart recommends sitting quietly when you arrive at your start point and allowing your mind to still before you begin.
Let go of any expectations you have of the walk. Then switch your focus to sensing the environment around you – what can you hear? What can you smell? Can you feel the sun on your face or leaves crunching beneath your feet? Pay attention to how they feel.
When you open your eyes to look around you, notice what attracts your attention. Rather than rushing to press the shutter, examine exactly why it interests you and try to illustrate that in your photo.
Find a like-minded community
Whether you’re new to photography or just prefer having some company, joining a group walk is a great way to learn the ropes, immerse yourself in nature and make new friends. Search social media for photo meet-ups in your area or start one of your own. When you’ve completed your walk don’t forget to share the images you’ve taken on your platforms. Using relevant hashtags and tagging organisations and people will help others to find your work and potentially point you in the direction of a new outing.
After taking a wealth of inspiring images on your nature walk you might like to share your photos and the particular route you enjoyed with like-minded individuals. This might certainly encourage other keen hikers and photography enthusiasts to follow in your footsteps.