The very mention of a camping trip brings forth a rush of adrenaline in most of us. Being close to nature, the adventure and excitement of a camp, the wildlife and landscapes we get close to, all make for a lot of precious memories. Read on to know how you can best capture your camping experience.
Read up a little on the place you're going to visit. What are the features you expect there....rivers, mountains, would there be snow, what birds and animals you can expect to encounter. This serves two advantages. Firstly, know what to look out for while photographing. Secondly, you can take equipment - lenses, tripod - accordingly. Say the camp spot is has a variety of birds around, you'd like to take along a good zoom lens.
Pack a little extra
You may have to spend a few nights away from even basic facilities like power. So make sure you have enough fully charged batteries and memory cards with you. There's no harm in taking a set or two of batteries more than what you feel you may need. It's better than running out of power mid-way! Other accessories you may like to include are a tripod, lenses and filters, a good camera case and, if possible, water-proof casing in case the heavens open up or you decide to take a dip in the stream with your camera in tow.
Make sure the camera is set to its highest resolution and quality setting. Also, set white balance according to available light and make sure ISO is set to the lowest available. Check the time-stamp reflects the true date and time, so you don't end up having photos dated '1st August 1901'!
Now that the basics are taken care of, I'll give you some ideas on what to shoot while camping
1. A different perspective
Look on the internet or at picture postcards to get an idea of local highlights and how the pros have shot them. Then try out the shots, but change your perspective. Lower or heighten your angle. Try shooting at different times of the day, when the light quality is different. Or try to include a unique foreground or background. If you have an SLR camera, try different apertures to get different levels of 'bokeh' or background-blur. A field of vivid wildflowers, when blurred, makes a breathtaking background. Try to include contrasting elements in the picture, or contrasting colours. Thinking outside of the norm gives very unique and memorable photos.
2. Make use of dawn and dusk
By far, it's dawn and dusk that offer the best photo-ops. Take shots of the sunrise, sunset and the skies. The colour of the skies change very rapidly during these hours and make for brilliant photos. Take photos of your family members against the backdrop of a setting or rising sun.
Getting up early and exploring with your camera gives you the opportunity to shoot wildlife, as most animals and birds are out in the morning, but retire into shade as the sun warms up.
3. Get close to nature
Try to fill your frame with the elements of nature. Flowers, foliage, earth, sand, rock and water offer exquisite photo opportunities as they form amazing natural patterns. A macro shot of a flower gives a totally different look to it.
4. Shooting water
Think water and a stream, river or lake comes to mind. While shooting rivers, compose so that the river flows in a diagonal line across your frame. Look for features like rocks, a bend in the river, fallen trees or a little waterfall to make the focal point of your frame. Try shooting the river and keeping your camera very close to the ground. Lower you shutter speed to get the 'silvery-hair' effect, which makes your photo spectacular. (Image credit: forestgladesiwander)
While shooting lakes, try to catch the reflection of rocks or mountains or even your tent in the calm waters. Use a polarizing filter for amazing blue skies.
5. Taking shots of people
Trips are all about the company we have and less about the destination. To take good people shots, try to be spontaneous. Don't ask them to pose, rather shoot when they're not really prepared for it. Show people in their context....your spouse lighting the campfire or your child eating a roasted marshmallow. This adds value and dynamism to a photo. Make sure the sun's facing the subject and not the camera, or else you'll have only black patches for faces! You may use 'fill flash' to get over this problem, though. And if you're taking a group shot, always take multiple frames, as it's quite difficult to get all the subjects to be facing the camera at first go. Another tip is to ask your subject to pull up his/her sunglasses, to prevent strong glare/reflections.
6. Capturing action
Action would include a bird or animal in motion, the trees swaying to the wind as well as your family members playing a game or racing each other. Try to freeze a fast moving subject by shooting at very high shutter speeds - 1/250 or 1/500. Likewise, introduce a slight blur while keeping the face focused by decreasing shutter speed to around 1/50 to 1/100. This gives a very desirable 'motion' effect. You can also try panning so that the subject is sharply in focus and the background gets blurred. This is tricky technique but makes for excellent photos.
I always have a habit to take photos of milestones. In your album, it serves as an announcement as well as a header to the place whose photos will follow. Another idea you can try is to decide on a particular landmark, and capture it in each place you visit, making a 'series'.
8. Night photos
Have a campfire and take photos of your family beside it. The golden glow and leaping flames can add magic! If you have a good SLR with you, try out star trails. It's one kind of photo you simply can't take in cities and a camping trip out in the wild is just the time for capturing star trails. More on star trails in this article.
9. Capture every moment
Don't reserve your camera only for when you reach your destination. Capture random photos throughout the trip. Shots of you leaving home, in the car/bus, setting up tent, cooking dinner or simply fooling around and having a good time, make for really memorable photos.