The two most common excuses I hear for a weak portfolio of nature photos is that the photographer doesn’t own the ‘best gear’ and that the photographer lives far away from any area of scenic beauty. Neither of these excuses is valid. I know of many photographers using old or inexpensive cameras, and living in less than inspiring locales that consistently create wonderful nature photos close to home. In the end, photography is about seeing the potential of your surroundings. You don’t need to go to exotic destinations or visit a national park to get great nature photos. The next great image is as close as your backyard.
Give Yourself an Assignment
At least once a month I give myself a photographic assignment to stretch my ability to see. For example, most people have houseplants or flower bouquets in their home. I will book off a morning and just roam around my house with my camera and tripod and try to create interesting photos of the flowers and plants. This exercise forces me to see the light in my house and to recognize the beauty of my familiar surroundings. Often I find things beyond the plants that turn into photographic gems such as raindrops or frost on a window, a ladybug in the leaves, or a cobweb in a corner (what a great excuse to avoid house cleaning, eh?). The point is simple, give yourself time to really look at your surroundings and you will find images that are powerful and evocative.
A lot of nature photographers shut off their shooting eyes when they are on home turf and often turn to mindless entertainment (e.g. TV, the internet, or video games) to unwind after a day at work.