Welcome to the tips section of Shawn Grant 's World. First of all I am strictly an amateur photographer and the tips are targeted towards those who wish to improve their photography as an amateur. This isn't a complete how to on nature photography. It is just something to fill space on the web site, lol and maybe interesting reading. Who knows you might learn something. The photo below was taken by a good friend of mine Mark Frankel.
Use a tripod. I have always said if I had a choice between forgetting my camera or tripod I would rather forget my camera, because with a tripod I could at least pretend like I am taking a sharp photo. With nature photography you photograph in early morning or late evening when there is little light so you will have very slow exposure times reaching several seconds. Basic rule of thumb is you can't hand hold if the shutter speed is less then the focal length of your lens. A tripod also slows you down so you will likely be more careful about how you compose the image.
Don't care about camera brand. Nikon, Canon, Minolta and Pentax make excellent cameras and lenses. In fact go look at the photos in my gallery and see if you can tell which I use Nikon, Canon, Minolta or Pentax. Can't tell can you? They all produce the exact same end results. Just select a brand that has the lenses you want in your price range and a camera that has the features for your budget.
Get good lenses. Being an amateur you don't have to go for the $1000+ 28-80mm f/2.8 lens unless you can afford it. On the other hand avoid the kit 28-80mm f/4.5-5.6 lens that is often sold with cameras. The big 4 companies all make some excellent middle of the road lenses that have great optics without costing an arm and a leg. Computer aided design and manufacturing has increased the optical quality of even consumer lenses. For nature photography a good 28-105mm and a 100-300mm will do the trick. Also consider a 20-35mm lens.
For macro you don't need to buy a macro lens. The Nikon 5T and 6T close up lenses are great top quality lenses to put on your 80-200 or 100-300mm lens. This is how all my macro photos are taken. Oh they work on all lens brands.
What to look for in a camera? Some web sites may say you need 2 Nikon F5's or 2 Canon EOS 1V. Maybe so if you are a pro but some of us just like to have fun on the weekend. Look for an SLR that is easy to use and feels good in your hands. Depth of field preview is an absolute must have. Spot metering is good to have as well. The big 4 companies have SLR cameras for less then $300 that have depth of field preview and spot metering.
Don't be afraid to go digital. Now days there are great digital cameras that can give you all you need for nature photography. Digital SLR cameras now cost less then a $1000 and give all the features as a film camera. Any thing 6 megapixels or above will allow you to get top quality prints at the same sizes as 35mm film. Digital camera's may cost more but you don't have to buy film or pay for development so they are cheaper in the long run. In fact I paid for my camera long ago just by taking photos of junk to sale on Ebay. My only expense is gas to get to the location to photograph.
Light is the most important ingredient in a photograph. Look for great dynamic light. This is often found in the morning or evening. Mid day is the worse time to photograph.
Simplify your photo. Don't include any objects that don't add to the photo.
Look at photos from well known skilled photographers and study them. Don't try to copy them. You need to find your own style. Study them so you know what a good photograph looks like.
Finally I suggest reading these great books. Nature Photography Field Guide by John Shaw and The Art of Photographing Nature by Martha Hill and Art Wolfe. You will learn far more from those books then this tips page.