Hunting Spring Photos with Len Villano

Most mornings, photographer Len Villano wakes before sunrise. He has to in order to have a chance at capturing the best photos. 

“You can’t wait for sunrise to leave the house,” said the longtime photographer for the Peninsula Pulse and Door County Living magazine. “You’ll be there too late.”

The best photos are taken right before sunrise and right after sunset. That’s when the light creates the shadows and hues that separate good photos from great ones and turn otherwise mundane subjects into intriguing stories. 

We often hike with our eyes down, but don’t forget to look up. And don’t ignore the small critters: it’s not always the largest or most exotic subjects that make the best photos.

“The bark of a tree might look like nothing in the middle of the day, but in the right light, with the shadows, [it] can take a really cool shape,” Villano said. 

In the pages that follow, he shares his tips for taking great spring photos along the hiking trail, whether you’re using a top-of-the-line camera or a smartphone.

With landscapes, it’s all about the light — not the quantity, but the quality of light. Get out early in the morning or later in the afternoon for the most appealing light. A bonus is that these are also the times when wildlife is most active, increasing your chances of spotting an animal or two. 

When hiking, try to remain quiet and keep your eyes open — you never know what might be hiding. When photographing wildlife (and people, for that matter), focus on the eyes.

When photographing flowers or plants, sit or kneel for a closer look. You’ll be surprised how much you were missing by viewing them from a standing height. Then keep your camera parallel with the parts of the plant that you want to be in focus.

In Door County, you’re never too far from water: a superb subject to photograph, especially at dawn and twilight. Place the horizon in the center of the image for a mirror-like effect, in the top half to emphasize the water or in the lower half to emphasize the sky.