When I was a boy, I watched Marlon Perkins' Wild Kingdom on television and was fascinated by the images of live animals on the screen. I knew a photographer had to be in the background to capture the action. Someday, I told myself, I'd like to do that.
While I'm grown up now, the wonder of nature still enthralls me and so do the photographers who put themselves "out there" to get the images. A few years ago, I had a conversation with Andy Rouse, one of the preeminent nature photographers in the world. While we talked about his photographic work-flow, we did have a side conversation about the field work. Being a nature photographer is not just walking out into the brush with your camera; there is quite a bit to learn to do it right.
Reading Ralph Clevenger's book, Photographing Nature, was an eye opener for me as to what's needed to be proficient. He covers quite a bit, gives away some secrets and provides a first-rate course in this subject. Photographing Nature is a photo workshop from the famed Brooks Institute, where Clevenger is an instructor.
Clevenger takes you step by step and leads you through a process to learn what you need in the way of equipment, lighting, wet-belly photography (it is what it sounds like!), and even ethics.
There is no way a book, even one as comprehensive as Ralph A. Clevenger's Photographing Nature is going to make a weekend shooter into a professional nature photographer; not without hours and hours of practice and thousands of images.
However, if you have any thought of heading to the great outdoors to try your hand at some simple subjects, Photographing Nature will make your initial steps easier and give you some methods with which to evaluate your product.
Most of us will not be nature photographers, but will, from time to time, go camping or hiking and, while away, have opportunities to photograph plants and animals. The techniques Clevenger presents can assist you in making sure the images are framed correctly, have effective lighting and know what makes an appealing and possibly a salable picture.
As for me... I still have a wee part of my curiosity that wants to explore some of Clevenger's methods, but not so much that I want to give up a comfortable bed for a sleeping bag.