Nature photography in your backyard

by Linda Henderson

It’s that time of year when I struggle to find something to photograph. Winter’s bleakness has not yet given away to spring’s splendor. Backyard nature photography doesn’t require travel or the burning of gasoline to find opportunities to push the camera shutter.  

Endless things like flower beds, ornamental plants, cactus, trees, bushes or backyard birds and bugs can be found right out your back door. You may need to look at things in your backyard with a little different perspective. Get low to plants and shrubs. Try shooting upward. Look under leaves and flowers to see if you can find a backyard insect. During the late winter and the early spring, most cold blooded creatures move a little slower and may be a little easier to focus on. Get close to a pine tree and shoot upward. This view can give you an interesting photo with lots of texture.  

Flowers and leaves are often the first things we think of when we look for photo subjects in our backyard. Flowers provide limitless colors, shapes and textures. If flowers are unavailable, then look for weeds like dandelions. Get close and photograph flowers and succulents in a portrait manner. Fill the frame with the flower, the leaves and/or stems of succulents. With their thick and fleshy parts, succulents can be striking and unusual in appearance.  

Take backyard photos in the early morning or evening light. Light during the middle of the day is too bright and can cause harsh shadows. If there is cloud cover, you can shoot any time of day.  

If you enjoy birding, then your backyard can be a wonderful place to set up a habitat that will attract song birds and other common birds. Add a feeder, a bird bath and perches. Try to photograph birds when they are likely to be most active and feeding. If you can find a way to camouflage yourself, you will likely get more natural photos of your backyard birds.

Experiment with various lighting conditions. Try backlighting leaves and flowers. Backlighting is using a light (the sun) to illuminate the object. This technique produces separation of the subject and the background. The late afternoon, when the sun is low in the horizon, is the perfect time to try backlighting.

When summer is over, leaves and seed pods can provide subjects to photo. Acorns, pine cones and holly berries will yield lots of color and texture.  

After a rain, raindrops can be your subject. Try photographing a single droplet or a whole string by using a wide lens setting and getting close.  

I love photographing mushrooms. They usually abound when the weather is cool and damp.  Look for them in moist, mossy places on the side of trees or logs.  

The best thing about photographing in your backyard is that nature is so handy. Our backyard can be a treasure for someone with a camera or a cell phone. If you don’t have a backyard, you can find lots of nature by strolling in a city park or local walking trails. 

Linda Henderson
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