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Hdr and tonemapped image created from 3 bracketed shots. Rhone Valley, SwitzerlandHdr and tonemapped image created from 3 bracketed shots. Rhone Valley, Switzerland

A pleasant hike in the nature is always a great moment for a session of Outdoor photography: conditions and subjects are so diverse, that it's possible to experiment with a variety of techniques and shooting modes.

In the next paragraphs will be introduced the best shooting modes to use while hiking.

- Landscape photography

Landscape Photography is probably the most common technique used while walking in nature.

Landscape photography: The crater of Mount Merapi, IndonesiaLandscape photography: The crater of Mount Merapi, Indonesia

It's essential is to keep an interesting composition. The environment is there to be used and included in the image: trees and leaves can become an interesting frame, while rivers and canyons can be used as leading lines to catch the attention of the observer. Including hiking companions or total strangers in the shot, can give a touch of mystery and create beautiful environmental portraits; options are endless and creativity is the limit.

A wide-angle lens, in example an 18 mm, is what is needed most of the times to include as much of the scenario as desirable. Aperture priority mode works well in this situation, with a large f-number set to increase the depth of field (DOF) and correctly focus the whole frame.

Environmental portrait in Meteora, GreeceEnvironmental portrait in Meteora, Greece

- Panoramic shooting

Panoramic photo shooting consist in rotating the camera around a pivot point while taking several overlapping images (about 25% on each side), that later will be recomposed into a single one at the computer.

The camera has to be set to Manual settings and focus, not to have unwanted light and focus differences in consecutive shots.

The choice of the lens is dependent on the subject: to portrait a general view of the surrounding environment, a wide lens is the best option; to obtain a panorama of a far away mountain chain, a telephoto lens is more appropriate. A tripod can help to keep the horizon horizontal and to allow the usage of smaller aperture to obtain a bigger DOF.

Panoramic view composed from 10 vertical shots of the Himalayan range seen from Poonhill, NepalPanoramic view composed from 10 vertical shots of the Himalayan range seen from Poonhill, Nepal

- High Dynamic range photography and photo bracketing

In situations with high light contrast where the bits of the camera are not enough to describe the amplitude of the light, the best solution is to take several shots of the same subject with different exposures, that can be combined later in an HDR image.

This process can be automated with the bracketing function available in most cameras. Usually 3 shots, one correctly exposed, one underexposed and one overexposed with 2 stops difference, are the standard settings. While not essential, since software can automatically align and crop the shots, a tripod can be used in these circumstances.

Hdr and tonemapped image created from 3 bracketed shots. Rhone Valley, SwitzerlandHdr and tonemapped image created from 3 bracketed shots. Rhone Valley, Switzerland

- Wildlife shooting

Often an outdoor trip is associated with encounters with wildlife, but animals in the wild are usually sensible to human presence and not easy to spot. That's why it's essential to have always the telephoto lens mounted and the camera accessible to shoot even the shiest animal appearing just for a few seconds in the field of view.

A fast speed and wide aperture are usually the most common choices to focus on the subject, detaching it from the blurred background, and to avoid camera shaking. ISO sensitivity should be the lowest possible that is producing sharp images.

Since animals are usually moving around, it's important to select the Continuous focus mode.

Other special techniques like Panning and Trap focus can be used after some practice.

Panning technique applied to wildlife photography: Pink flamingos in Camargue, FrancePanning technique applied to wildlife photography: Pink flamingos in Camargue, France

- Moving water and slow shutter speed photography

While hiking in nature a photographer can expect to meet several water sources to experiment with slow shutter speed photography: a sturdy tripod is again essential.

The best shooting mode is Manual, to control not only the shutter speed, but also the DOF. If you are not too comfortable with Manual settings, Shutter priority will also work well considering that the aperture will be automatically closed by the camera. Good starting parameters can be 1 second exposure, f/22 and ISO 100, that according to the light conditions can be modified consequently. Also to remember that slower shutter speed will produce a more blurred, silky water in streams, rivers and waterfalls.

A Neutral density filter can be a life saver in case of bright light, or to obtain a shallow focus. A polarizing filter can be used in any situations to achieve more intense colors and delete unwanted glares and reflections.

Waterfall in Plitvice Lakes National Park, CroatiaWaterfall in Plitvice Lakes National Park, Croatia

Since it's not possible to cover every existing technique in a single article we leave to the reading photographer the curiosity to expand its possibilities. Astrophotography can be used to shoot clear skyes and stars at night, producing star trails; plenty of insects and flowers can be found to experiment with macro photography; time-lapse technique can be employed for a particular project to show the weather changing or a flower blossoming. Each photographer will specialize in one or more of these techniques and bring the necessary equipment to turn his outdoor adventure in a great occasion for a photo session.

Northern Light in Olderdalen, NorwayNorthern Light in Olderdalen, Norway


Davide VadalàDavide Vadalà
In 2009 I quit my job to chase my dream of exploring our planet in a sustainable way and I haven't stopped yet. I love nature, sustainability, travel photography, handicrafts and hiking, and I never stop dreaming. More about Davide Vadala'.

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Davide and Oti

We are Davide and Otilia, two friends with itchy feet, living a non conventional life traveling around the world and learning everyday something new....
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