Can You Capture Nature Photographs With a Wide Aperture Lens?

Travel Nature photography captured with 50mm lens f/1.2

There is no better combination for nature lovers and photographers than to be in the nature photography niche. But by nature photography, we can understand much. It can be either general nature photography, while traveling, macro in nature, a little bit of landscape & nature, nature and wildlife, etc. 

However, let’s focus on the very basics of nature photography. Now the topic question is: Can you capture nature photographs on your travels with a wide aperture lens?

Definitely yes! In fact, many travel nature photographers use wide-aperture prime lenses to capture stunning subjects and elements in nature, distinguish the background and foreground from the main elements, and create a memorable form of art.

Tree trunk with an colored X on it - Photograph captured by Gabriel Mihalcea // Lovelyscape with 50mm lens at f/1.2

But going forward from the quick answer paragraph, you may definitely want to read more to find out everything that’s about to know on photographing nature with a wide aperture lens.

What is a wide-aperture lens?

50mm nikon lens

A wide aperture lens is a lens, usually, a prime lens for your DSLR or mirrorless camera (with fixed focal length) with an “opening”, aka the aperture, to be very wide, such as f/1.8, f/1.4, f/1.2, and around those values. What does that mean in terms of photography? 

Photographing with a wide aperture lens let more light come into the camera sensor because of the wide opening and not only that is better for low light photography, but the depth of field is more shallow, meaning we have some effects known as “bokeh”.

But in nature photography with a wide aperture lens, is more practical to have the shallow depth of field on the background and even the foreground to “blur” those out and keep the subject (and only the subject) in focus. This creates some methods to create stunning photographs in nature when you travel.

Moreover, there are some other techniques that can be applied when using a wide aperture lens in nature, which makes it create more artistic photographs in general. 

Although many photographs may say to use a narrow aperture of your camera lens (such as f/8-f/12 values), I say, experiment with all the aperture values your lens has, in special if it’s a prime lens, as an example of the photographs I’ve been taking around, with my 50mm at f/1.2 on full-frame.

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Capturing travel nature photographs with a wide aperture lens on a full-frame or crop-sensor DSLR camera?

Travel nature photography forest with 50mm lens f/1.2

The crop sensor (DX) and the full-frame sensor (FX) are two different common sensor types found in a DSLR camera, but not only. There are differences between them, such as the DX (crop sensor) is smaller than the FX. What does mean?

It means that less light can fall into the camera sensor. It may act slightly poorly as compared to the FX (full-frame) and the depth of field is always more shallow on the full-frame than on the crop sensor. 

Therefore, for the more artistic types of photographs where you blur the background and foreground, a full frame tends to work much better than a crop sensor.

It doesn’t mean that if you have a DX DSLR camera you are not able to create amazing nature photographs. It means that circumstances will change a little bit, your lens focal length will be 1.5x as compared to the full-frame camera (for instance, if you have a 50mm lens on a DX body, it’s gonna have a 75mm focal length), and you have to keep in mind that as an instance inside of forests where the lighting is not that adequate, you may have to rise the ISO slightly more.

But in general, if you can choose between capturing nature photographs during your travels with a wide aperture lens, because we are talking specifically about wide-aperture, a full-frame camera will be performing better. If we are aiming for an aperture like f/8 or around, the camera body and sensor wouldn’t matter as much. 

What focal length should you use for wide-aperture travel nature photographs? 

Black and white leaves

It all depends on your photography style, your target in mind, and of course, what you currently own.

For instance, if you do macro or close-up photography, a lens such as a 105mm macro lens would be an adequate choice. If you capture photographs inside a forest, a normal 50mm focal length would be as well an amazing choice, whereas a meadow may benefit from an 18mm lens for example.

But this should not always be followed as a rule, but merely as a guideline. That’s the beauty of photography, that you can experiment and come up with stunning results when you expect less from a combination of settings and focal lengths. 

Is there anything to keep in mind about the ISO and Shutter Speed? 

Preferably, you should use an ISO with a value as less as possible (such as ISO 100) to reduce or completely eliminate any noise from your photographs. But keep in mind that in many cases, in special when we may relate to macro/nature or forest photography, it would be difficult to use the ISO 100 and still be able to capture handheld.

nature trees and plants silhouettes captured in nature by Gabriel Mihalcea // Lovelyscape

Therefore, it is favorable that you should consider experimenting with different ISO values that can bring your shutter speed to a specific level such as for instance, 1/100, but keep in mind not to raise the ISO above any values (all depending on your camera capabilities) that can ruin your image because of the image noise.

What I would prefer, as a standard for this type of photography is to limit my ISO to a maximum of 2500, rarely to 3200 while the aperture remains at the widest values settings (as to cover the subject of this topic) and with a shutter speed decent to fit my needs.

As for the shutter speed, for instance, I would like if I photograph with my camera handheld to have a minimum of 1/60 in the case I am using my 50mm lens. Just the perfect combination. But in general, I aim for faster shutter speeds if I photograph handheld just to ensure there is no blur in my images. However, sometimes, we need some blur!

» READ MORE: How to Capture Night Handheld Photographs

Indeed, in this case, why we shouldn’t create something specific and unique and use a long exposure shutter speed with the camera set on a tripod, for instance of a scenery, if we find a waterfall in a forest?

As mentioned above, there are an infinite number of combinations between the exposure triangle where our aim here is to shoot at the widest aperture nature photographs and different focal lengths lenses. 

In conclusion – Can You Capture Nature Photographs When you Travel With a Wide Aperture Lens?

Definitely, you can! And you will be extremely pleased by the results, to break some “guidelines”, go wild and shoot wide! Because, after all, why not? What does stop us to achieve some unique artistic photographs in nature? 

Thank you for reading this blog post. I hope you are doing well and you found your answer here. Take care and see you around.

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