By Allie Wisniewski, American Forests

The days are getting longer and the summer sun has returned to raise our spirits! You know what that means — it’s time for this year’s Forests in Focus photo contest!

Passionate about nature and capturing the beauty of its forest wonderlands? This is your chance to show off your skills! So, grab your camera and start shooting — the 2017 contest opens today and runs until September 5.

Last year’s competition was fierce, and Garret Suhrie emerged victorious with a cover feature in our magazine, among other amazing prizes such as products from our corporate partners. (Check out all of last year’s winners here.)

In light of today’s kickoff, we thought we’d give you five of our favorite nature photography tips for some additional inspiration:

  1. Plan accordingly.
    You can’t always predict every detail when you’re entering the untamed wilderness, but taking basic precautions can often make or break your experience. Make sure you’re equipped with comfortable walking shoes, dress appropriately for the weather, and always research any rules and regulations your chosen location may have in place before you head out.
  2. Get familiar with your camera’s settings.
    It’s safe to say you’ll likely have trouble snapping that perfect photo without at least a little knowledge of your camera’s advanced settings. Learn exposure basics like aperture, shutter speed, and ISO to ensure the best quality possible!
  3. Bring the right equipment.
    Nature photography often requires a tripod to prevent the sometimes-inevitable blurriness caused by a shaky hand. Lens hoods and weather-proof cases may also prove helpful in especially bright or rainy conditions.
  4. Try a new perspective.
    Photos not coming out the way you’re envisioning them? Switch up your perspective! Crouch low or find a tree to climb – Trying a new angle or point of view can help refresh your vision and re-inspire you to compose the shot you have in mind.
  5. Patience is key — don’t give up!
    Photography is all about patience, practice, and persistence. It’s common for photographers to take 500 to 1,000 photos before finding that perfect shot, so don’t give up! Take it from one of my favorite quotes by Lao Tzu, “Nature doesn’t hurry, yet everything is accomplished.”

Good luck! We look forward to seeing your entries throughout the summer!