I am a nature lover and at the same time, my expertise is 50mm photography. I love to take 50mm nature photography also 50mm fine-art photography. There are a few ways to approach the 50mm nature photography and to capture nature in her own beauty. How to capture nature with a 50mm lens?
With a good and sharp 50mm lens, nature photographs will look naturally better than any other focal lengths because of the minimum to none perspective distortion due to the unique focal length. You need to have the aperture of f/5.6 to f/11 for deep depth of field nature photographs or f/1.4 to f/2.0 for beautiful nature bokeh where your shutter speed will have values depending on the lighting available.
Although there are many ways to approach nature photography with a 50mm lens, I am going to focus on three mains to cover:
- #1 Nature photography – Long exposures with a 50mm lens
- #2 Nature photography – The natural bokeh from nature
- #3 Nature photography – The Crystal-clear nature.
- #Bonus: Post-processing nature photographs
50mm nature photography – how to capture nature with a 50mm lens.
When spring is coming from the cold and foggy winter, most of us we tend to take our camera outside and go in the nature to take some amazing photographs – it can be anything from macro flowers & insects, wildlife to nature itself.
There is an infinite number of things you can capture in nature. Every corner of nature has its own unique side where you may be able to take a good photograph or a masterpiece.
Long exposures with a 50mm lens in nature
Taking long-exposure photographs can be limitless in nature. Consider the fact that the rivers, waterfalls, lakes and some other running waters are part of nature, as well, the motion which creatively can capture with a long exposure.
Although the long exposure scenarios in nature apply not only to 50mm photography but to any focal length, generalising the idea of using a long exposure in nature may have an impact due of some factors which have to be taken into consideration such as:
- What is the focal length you are using? (I guess 50mm)
- What shutter speed are you going to use?
- How is the weather?
- What are the lighting conditions?
- How favourable is the dynamic range on your scene?
It is the 50mm lens on a full-frame camera?
The reason I am asking this is that between a full-frame camera and a DX (or crop sensor camera) there is a difference that on a DX, we have a crop factor of 1.5x. On a DX camera such as Nikon D3200, D5200 etc., this focal length will look more like a 75mm. If you have a DX camera and you want to match the 50mm focal length, the closest you can do is to have a 35mm lens, where the crop factor makes this to be a 52.5mm.
Once again, I love the 50mm photography and from my personal point of view, except some specific scenarios where you need a telephoto lens for wildlife photography or a very wide one for astrophotography or landscape (in general), I find the naturalness of a 50mm to be outstanding in photography if used right.
What shutter speed are you going to use?
Shutter speed is playing a very important factor in 50mm nature photography. In general, to have your camera on program mode is not a crime, but in the 50mm nature photography, I prefer to have the camera either on manual mode or aperture mode.
If the camera is set on aperture mode, you don’t have control over your shutter speed. In this case of creating long exposures with a 50mm lens in nature, you need to use the manual mode, or in the worst case the aperture mode and step down the aperture and ISO to be able to create a set time of exposure, but I don’t recommend it. It is more favourable if you simply set the camera on manual mode and start playing with the settings until you get your desired shutter speed.
The shutter speed I use in general for long exposure photographs is between 3 and 20 seconds, depending on many factors. One of the factors is the wind speed, as the tree leaves will all look blurry if the shutter speed is too long, in a windy condition, where, for example, in the wintertime, if there are no leaves on the tree and I want to photograph a waterfall or a river in the forest or nature, I can get the shutter speed up to 20 seconds (in some cases even more)
But beware, once you slow down the shutter speed, you may need to have an ND filter to control the light which comes into your camera sensor (as closing down the aperture may not make a huge difference for long exposures).
How is the weather? What are the lighting conditions? What about dynamic range?
Reflecting on the above topic where I mentioned that the weather affects the long exposure, this also has an impact on the lighting in general. If there is a cloudy and windy day, it will be more difficult to take long exposure 50mm nature photographs with an ND filter rather than a sunny and calm day. In this case, we may have two different scenarios:
- The first one is that if there is overcast weather (even with no wind) the photographs tend to look a bit more colourless, therefore a bit more of retouching the photos is recommended, in special to boost the saturation and colours in general.
- The second scenario is where the sun rays may directly affect the dynamic range, such as to be a huge difference between highlights and shadows, in special that in nature, you will often find that. Not mentioning that the sun rays going through the leaves and branches and falling into the ground will create a vast difference and messy shadowy patterns of leaves and forms on the ground, where it will be difficult to identify anything and will make the whole image to look poorly.
It will be good practice for the best results to find spots with less sun (or none) in the foreground and even mid-ground, where could be some visible sun rays on the background (far away from you). Those are the most popular nature photographs on the internet.
Keep in mind also, that if you are looking for taking long-exposure into nature with a 50mm lens, you definitely need a tripod (and maybe an ND filter, as mentioned above).
The natural bokeh from nature.
The three main key points in creating an amazing bokeh in nature are as the following: A foreground, the focus point and the background. But you need more than this such as a wide-open aperture and a source of light in the background.
A source of light is not hard to find. In fact, you do not have to necessarily look for a specific source of light, something like the skylight seen through leaves would do just fine. But beware of the dynamic range difference, as long as you may have a bright background as the sky seen through natural leaves, the leaves may look darker, therefore, it would be a good practice to balance the shutter speed as to capture the nature without any motion blur and to lower the ISO as much as possible to be able to capture the scene without to boost the ISO, as you may need to boost the shadows a bit more in order to restore them into the leaves. This is given as an example, of course.
Following the above example, this won’t be difficult if you have a fast 50mm lens (very wide aperture lens) with the aperture of f/1.8 or lower (as I do have the Nikon 50mm f/1.2 manual focus), would be enough light to capture on a fast shutter speed.
The leaves, blue sky and everything mentioned above is the background. That is going to be your bokeh as the light seen through the leaves will make this happen and look amazing. Now let’s focus a bit about the focus point.
The focus point is not going to be in a mid-ground. Taking nature photographs with a 50mm lens, is not either wide enough to get to your subject very close either a telephoto lens where you can be afar from your subject. The focus point or subject it is indeed going to be relatively close to you.
Not always in order to create beautiful bokeh in the nature you need a source of light in the background. The same way, not always to say, you need to have a foreground. Things are more beautiful in general where creativity is in place.
I am going to give you the above example where I’ve seen this cut tree with a pink X painted. Right at this moment, I did not ignore the subject just because there is not a source of light in the background and the image has no foreground.
What I’ve done I captured it with the widest aperture in order to have as much blur in the background. The “X” is still in focus though. The next step I’ve done is that I retouched the image and isolated the “X” as being bright coloured as compared with the rest of the image which is in black and white.
This is to draw attention to the subject and there is a type of photography called “Spot colour photography” if you are interested in this technique.
“The crystal clear nature, the deep depth of field”
I know I could find a better name to describe this but is in general photographs taken with a narrow aperture to isolate or completely remove the blur and to have a deeper depth of field.
This technique which is mostly standard to nature photographs taken with a mobile phone will simply highlight the beauty of nature as it is and the nature scenery / landscapes.
There are two things to consider when we capture nature photographs with a 50mm lens and a deep depth of field:
- The first one is the fact that a 50mm lens is not a wide lens, therefore, as in landscape photography, there is only part fo the scenery you can photograph with a 50mm focal length.
When you photograph nature with a 50mm lens, you can see the depth of nature instead of the wideness of it. Imagine now having a wide photograph, you definitely are not able to see the depth of it. Well, think about the fact that there are only a number of elements you can frame with a 50mm lens. Moreover, not to forget, with a 50mm focal length images will look more natural than with any focal length.
There is also a simple technique to consider when we reflect on the necessity to capture wide or panoramic images in nature with a 50mm lens, but we cannot due to the focal length. Basically, what we do here is take a couple of images (left to right or right to left) at the same height level and we stack them in Lightroom or Photoshop to create a panoramic image. (see image below)
- Dropping down the aperture in order to capture photographs in the nature with a 50mm lens and a deep depth of field (no bokeh or blur) will drop the shutter speed a lot.
In this case, because the lighting in the nature is mostly limited, in special if you are in a forest (even during the day), not a lot of lighting is available.
Try to find a balance between the aperture and the shutter speed to be able to shoot handheld, in the worst-case scenario boost the ISO a bit to compensate with the loose of light. Don’t forget that you shoot in 50mm which is not actually a wide lens, therefore, you may also need to have a minimum of 1/60sec shutter speed to shoot handheld.
The other idea is to use a tripod. But having a tripod with you will not always be possible, although, if your intention was or is to capture long exposures in nature with your 50mm lens, then you need to have a tripod and already have one.
Post-processing nature photographs taken with a 50mm lens.
No matter what lens you are using and how you capture the nature photographs, about all the time, you will have to post-process them for the best results.
A few things before you shoot nature photographs you may want to post-process:
- Always shoot in RAW – RAW images will give you the ability to post-process them (JPEG are final images which cannot be post-processed more than the very basic).
- Capture multiple angles of the same scene to have the option later on to pick your best one. It would be too bad to have a nice scene and elements you want to photograph but you took only one shot and the angle is wrong or the image is not sharp.
- Set picture control to neutral (all values to be to 0) – For best post-processing results, you have to keep those values to zero.
Now, let’s say that you have a RAW image of a scene in the nature and you are ready to post process. How?
Although there could be endless options to edit an image, what I would prefer is Lightroom, because of the simplicity, yet the post-processing capabilities are amazing.
How to edit a nature photograph in Lightroom
Import > Develop mode
Simply import the images you want to edit in Lightroom classic from “Library” then go to “Develop Mode” and select the image you want to edit
Crop / Adjust the angle
The next step what I would do is to go to crop overlay and crop the image if needed and/or adjust the angle of the image. If you think the composition is okay and all the image is 100% usable, skip this step.
Colour temperature and tone
As we start to edit the basics of the nature image, we will start with the colour correction.
As this is a nature photo, my personal preference is to decrease the temperature of the image a bit and the tint towards the green. In this way, the liveness of the nature starts to show off.
Ensure that you set the right exposure, adjust the white balance and increase/decrease shadows and dark areas as per your like.
One another thing I always do is to slightly increase the contrast.
Adjust the “presence”
The presence area is where you increase/decrease the texture level, clarity and dehaze, also is where you adjust the vibrance and saturation of the whole image.
If the image does not have blur / shallow depth of field, I usually like to increase the texture a bit and decrease at the same time the clarity. The elements would be well-defined but the image will have a bit of softness in it. Increasing the clarity on nature images would be a bad move because of the complexity in the image (e.g. lots of leaves, trees, flowers, different elements in general).
Depending on the significance of dark areas in the image, I sometimes decrease the dehaze, which its functions are to “increase” the fogness of the image. This works well with decreasing the clarity.
The last step of the “presence” is to adjust the amount of colour you want your image to have by sliding the vibrance and saturation. Remember, as a nature photo, sometimes this would look better if the colours are a bit boosted. But of course, you may have different tastes.
HSL / COLOUR
We skip the tone curve unless you want to individually increase or decrease the bright or dark areas of the image, but remember, this can easily ruin the quality of your image.
On HSL / Colour we have three branches: Hue, Saturation and Luminance.
In this area basically we fine-tune the colours. As a nature image, I often tend to decrease the saturation or completely remove an unwanted colour such as magenta and purple, as this is often found around chromatic aberration areas and not enough of these colours in the nature to make a difference.
Adjust the saturation of each colour as per your like.
– Now, here is a next step you may want to do or not. on the HUE area, if the nature appears to be very greenish, decreasing the green colour will make the leaves and everything is green around to become yellow. This will give a unique autumn aspect of the image. I decided in this example not to go with it though. You may want to do it or not, if not, adjust the HUE area only per your like.
Split toning will allow you to control the highlights and shadows colours. What that would mean is that you can choose to give a colour tone to the highlights and same for the shadows.
In general, tend not to split the toning but here I will do just to give you an example on how this can have an impact on your nature photographs.
Details, lens correction, transform, effects.
– In general, I do slightly increase the sharpness and apply a bit of noise reduction if this is necessary.
– As per lens correction, you can apply the profile of your 50mm lens to fix any barrel distortion and/or can add or remove vignette from the same area. I don’t usually touch any other settings any other than to check the “remove chromatic aberration” box.
– I always skip the transform area as we did transform and adjusted the image before we started editing (see step 2). If you still need an additional transforming of the image, you can do it in this step.
– As for the effects, consider the fact that this is a nature photograph and we are not looking for special grainy effects or any other types of effects.
Calibration is where we do the last colour correction of the image. If you may think that there is anything you can change, the tone of the image, of particular colours or the saturation, you can play with the slides.
Do it, and if you don’t like it, you can always reset the values to zero.
Additional steps to consider
After I finish editing an image, I zoom 1:1 to inspect it for any imperfections and to use the spot removal to remove any unwanted objects from the scene (e.g. an empty trash bottle on the ground). I don’t use radial filters on nature photographs though.
Keep in mind that spot removal in Lightroom is not as good as the one found in Photoshop. I often tend if I want to remove something from an image to use the photoshop instead.
Export the image.
All is done. Now is the time for you to export the image from FILE > EXPORT. Do not resize the image as this would decrease the quality of it, and if the image is a final one, choose to export into JPEG (Max quality.)
Ah, also, I remember, you can always compare the BEFORE and AFTER (press the Y/Y under the image) to compare your final image with the original one.
Of course, there could be a couple more improvements into the image but this is just an example of how I am editing a nature image in Lightroom.
Capturing nature photographs with a 50mm lens is a beautiful process and most of the times, even the poorly constructed images can make a difference after post-processed.
Remember that in nature, even photographs captured with a 50mm lens, there are a lot of elements, an above-average number of elements which will make the viewers focus more on the general areas of the image or to focus on the whole image and less on specific subjects or elements.
Thank you for remaining with us until the end of this post. I hope you found this insightful, and I hope to see you around.
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