Wilderness Photographer Shares Tips


Chuck Davis, volunteer wilderness ranger, leads snowshoe photo tours near Snoqualmie Pass each winter. Kelly Sprute, US Forest Service.

Chuck Davis’ photographs capture breathtaking images of the Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest. As a volunteer wilderness ranger for 12 years he is in the right place at the right time. Chuck hikes between 15 to 20 miles to get those shots and he takes about 40 images to get three or four to use. “I enjoy taking truly wilderness images void of the human element. It is just pristine and I am out by myself seeing the backcountry, lakes, forests, streams and if I cross any animals, all the better,” he says.

Chuck, from Woodinville, Wash., is self-taught, and became interested in the craft after building a darkroom for his wife in the 80s. He follows the work of Art Wolf, Jason O’Dell and Gary Hamburgh. Chuck calls himself an avid enthusiast, although he has been offering his work for sale since 2008 and leads snowshoe photography tours each winter. Chuck shares a few outdoor photography tips with us.

  • Draw attention to the subject: fill the frame; frame it between two trees; or, use leading lines, such as streams or roads.
  • Keep it simple; remove clutter around the subject, in the background.
  • Use the rule of thirds: Divide the camera frame into nine equal squares and position the subject at one of the four intersecting corners of the grid.
  • When shooting horizons divide the camera frame into thirds and place the subject in the two-thirds area.
  • Enhance tall objects by framing vertically; emphasize width by framing horizontally.

  • Don’t miss the opportunities rain and mist provide. The nicest shots I have ever taken where in the rain with drops falling off flower petals.
  • Use a lens hood, wrap your camera in a plastic bag or shoot underneath an umbrella to keep your equipment dry.

  • Carry extra batteries and keep them warm.
  • Snow causes a camera set on automatic to underexpose the subject. Try increasing the exposure a full step.
  • Get outside soon after it snows for the best shooting conditions.
  • Photograph fantastic ice formations right after a quick drop in temperature.
  • Shoot at sunrise and sunset to capture the colors reflected in the snow and ice.

  • Determine whether you trying to isolate a single flower or a group.
  • Use a macro lens or close-up lens filter. I screw a magnifying filter onto the front of my camera lens.

  • You need very long lenses to take photos of wildlife.
  • To travel light, I shoot with an 18 to 200 millimeter lens.
  • Set the camera to burst mode (six shots per second) to capture the animal’s expression.