OP Home > Locations > North America > The Great American Midwest


Monday, May 4, 2009

The Great American Midwest

Tips for getting exciting and dramatic imagery from the prairies and woodlands of the central United States

This Article Features Photo Zoom

great american
Capturing great photography in the Midwest often means getting up close for more intimate landscapes. Shooting in forests and woodland areas, especially in the fall, presents opportunities for images with stunning color. There’s no better time to head out to the forest than when the sky is gray because the even, gentle light results in colors that pop. Michigan’s Upper Peninsula is a boon for nature photographers—its intact wilderness stretches for miles along the Great Lakes coastline and offers a mix of wetlands, woods and wildflowers.

To find those out-of-the-way locations, take a tour sponsored by the National Audubon Society or The Nature Conservancy. Since midwestern hot spots aren’t as well known, this can give you a quick way of learning the area better.

I’m spoiled. I’ve had the fortune to photograph the pristine and spectacular—from the canyons of Zion National Park to the mountains of Glacier National Park to the fall color of New England, as well as the winter landscape in the nation’s crown jewel, Yellowstone National Park. While truly rewarding, this photography is a piece of cake compared to photographing in my native habitat, the Midwest. To the casual photographer, landscape photography in the Midwest is an oxymoron. The workshop advertising pages of outdoor photography magazines aren’t exactly flooded with trips to the Midwest. It’s all the more impressive, however, when one finds beauty in the more subtle and smaller pockets of the diverse natural landscape of the Midwest.

Successful landscape photography in the Midwest requires harder work and diligence than the allegedly more glamorous areas of the country. Most of this work begins without a camera. So let’s get to the meat and potatoes. Here are some tips on making your midwestern landscape photography a bit easier and more successful.

Tip 1) Know The Ecosystems And Visit Often.
There are four main ecosystems in the Midwest that lend themselves to good landscape photography: 1) woodlands and forests; 2) tallgrass prairies and savannas; 3) the Great Lakes; and 4) wetlands. Go out and experience these ecosystems at different times of the year and learn the intricacies of the habitat. They won’t scream “Photograph me!” like a 14,000-foot peak, so visit these ecosystems as much as you can. By becoming intimately familiar with a place and returning often, you’ll learn when various lighting conditions and environmental factors can come together for rewarding photographs. Following the next tip will assist you with this one.

great american
Tip 2) Do Your Homework.
As much as we’re dependent on any number of factors that are beyond our control, there are several steps that we can take without a camera to make our midwestern landscape photography more successful. Read photography books, art books, field guides, geology books and literature on the midwestern landscape. Return to these sources often. My favorite midwestern photography subject is the tallgrass prairie.

I carry Tallgrass Prairie Wildflowers: A Field Guide to Common Wildflowers and Plants of the Prairie Midwest (Falcon Guide). This is an invaluable tool. The Audubon Field Guides provide abundant information, too.

Take naturalist-led tours of the local systems. Expert-led excursions sponsored by groups like the Sierra Club, the National Audubon Society and The Nature Conservancy cut down on learning time. These leaders are a fantastic source of information. Call various stewards of the prairies and find out if there have been any prescribed burns. If so, the wildflowers will explode. Go beyond the science and read literature and art books. These are great sources of inspiration for my photography!


Add Comment


Popular OP Articles