Not everyone can afford a professional DSLR camera and set of lenses but many of the ‘point-and-shoot’ digital compact cameras available today are capable of taking excellent photographs and many come with built in zoom lenses, exposure control and many other features. These cameras are light to carry, and easy to use – making them a perfect choice for most applications.
For the more serious photographer, you will definitely need a decent wide angle lense (28mm, 35mm) for those wide landscapes, and a good telephoto lense (200mm or higher) for birds and animals.
A small lightweight aluminium tripod – available at most photographic stores – will come in handy, if you need to get a shot of yourself on self-timer or if you need to steady the camera while shooting under low light.
Landscape photography is at the same time one of the easiest and most difficult subjects to approach. A good landscape photograph should be well composed, contain atmosphere and make a simple, effective statement. A simple rule can be applied in most instances – ‘less is more’ – don’t clutter the photograph with too much detail.
The relationship and balance between the land and sky is always an important factor and especially in interesting weather conditions, it is worth experimenting with different proportions of sky and land. One can create a dramatic effect with a large expanse of dynamic clouds and a thin strip of land or mountains at the bottom.
When photographing mountain and sea scapes, it is often difficult to get a true sense of size and proportion. Try placing an interesting rock, flower (or person) somewhere in the foreground. Using foreground will generally add more depth to your photographs.
The best landscapes are often taken when the weather is stormy or misty. Be on the look out for shafts of sunlight that break through the clouds, mist swirling around the cliffs, interesting reflections on water and and other visual effects caused by changing lighting conditions. These can all add mood to a photograph.
Don’t always shoot from the standing position. Experiment with camera height – getting low down on the ground creates some interesting angles. Stand on a rock to get some height or climb a tree to incorporate some hanging branches into the foreground of your shot.
Obviously sunset is a good time to capture some drama. Use silhouettes of trees, rocks and people to add interesting shapes to your foreground. If their are fleecy cirrus clouds in the sky, be sure to wait a while after the sun goes down to capture the pinks and oranges that will catch these clouds as the sky turns to darker and darker blue.
Above all, experiment and be creative – you’ll be amazed at the results you can get.
Animals and birds
Unless you are very lucky, capturing good shots of animals and birds requires time and patience – they generally don’t stay in one place for long. If you are walking keep your camera open with the lense zoomed in and ready to shoot. If you spot your subject, frame up and fire a shot off as quickly as possible. Then if there is time, take a second shot with a little more care. This will increase your chances of getting at least one picture before the animal or bird disappears.
If you have more time, get comfortable and set up on a tripod to wait for your subject to settle down. Practice framing and focussing quickly on a particular spot and above all, when your subject is in the frame, don’t hesitate – hit the button because all too often they will be gone before you get another chance.
Flowers and plants
There are many great opportunities to photograph the wonderful flora of the Cape while walking in the Peninsula mountains. A good zoom or close up lense will help in getting your subject as large as possible in the frame. Using a low f-stop will help get the background out of focus and isolate your subject in the frame – plants can often get lost in the picture if the background is dense foilage. Alternatively, get the camera down low and frame the subject against the sky or distant cliffs to help bring the subject to the foreground.
Again, look for some drama and atmosphere. Unless you are a botanist, standard shots of plants and flowers can turn out quite boring. Keep an eye out for silhouettes of dead trees, reeds reflected in water, dewdrops on leaves, lichens and fungi on tree bark, grasses blowing in the wind and the small plants and mosses found growing besides the streams and rivers.