History of Nature Photography
Nature photography, as a category, encompasses a range of outdoor photos which feature elements of nature such as wildlife, landscapes, and foliage--with each of these subjects possessing individual historical traditions and associated photographic techniques. The earliest nature photos were of landscapes or otherwise unmoving natural subjects under bright, long-lasting, sunlight due to slow shutter speeds and long exposure times. The National Geographic Society did much to promote the art of nature and wildlife photography through their celebrated image-centric nature magazine, first published in 1988. Nature photography is a unique fine art genre in that it has progressed alongside, and maintains close ties with, several natural conservationist organizations, as the beauty of the imagery encourages public support of wildlife conservation efforts.
Nature Photography Techniques
When shooting wildlife, it’s imperative for photographers to remain undetected by the animals, so long telephoto lenses are usually employed, and photographers will typically take pains to camouflage themselves. Fast shutter speeds and wide apertures are also preferred so that their animal subjects are the focal points of the image. In contrast, landscape photographers shooting more-or-less static scenes prefer smaller apertures to obtain large depths of field so that the entire, sweeping vista--both foreground and background--is clearly captured. Another nature photography technique used by those specializing in very small wildlife (such as insects) or abstract photos of plants and flowers is macro photography--that is, very close-up, small-scale images. Using macro lenses, a photographer can take photos which highlight tiny features of living creatures or textures of natural surfaces such as flower petals or tree bark to create abstract images.
Artists Known For Nature Photography
As previously stated, nature photography encompasses an array of subject matter (and their associated techniques), with photographers tending to specialize. In the realm of landscape photography, both Ansel Adams and William Henry Jackson are known for their images of the American West as well as for their large roles in the preservation of Yosemite and Yellowstone park, respectively. Other well-known landscape photographers include Edward Weston, Galen Rowell, Charlie Waite, and David Muench. Celebrated wildlife photographers include Arthur Morris (the world’s most prolific bird photographer), Nick Brandt, Jim Brandenburg, Stefano Unterthiner, Andy Rouse, Peter Chadwick, Daniel Beltra, Antoni Kasprzak, Dave Watts, Steve Winter, Brian Skerry (known for his underwater wildlife photography), David Maitland, and Cyril Ruoso.