Natural Exposures

Two of Bozeman photographer Daniel J. Cox's images have made the cover of National Geographic in the past eight years, a success most photographers can only dream of. The images in his 2005 National Geographic feature on owls were taken in the Bridger Mountains, just 20 miles from his office.

Cox's work has also been featured in hundreds of publications, in galleries such as the Natural History Museum of London, and in dozens of books. He says he wants to “inspire people to appreciate the great outdoors, with their own eyes, and with a camera: to convince them that what we have here is so unique and enjoyable it's worth preserving.” To get that message across, Cox works with students one-on-one and in small groups, leading photographic safaris around the world—including two this coming January in Yellowstone National Park.

“What's wonderful about still photography,” Cox says, “is the excitement of working to capture that one unique moment that you can't capture with your own eye.” To better capture that one unique moment yourself, here are ten tips for getting your best “natural exposures.”

  • When you have good light, look for additional compositional elements that will make a gorgeous image. Practice this even when you don't have your camera.
  • Look for images that tell a story.
  • Use dramatic light to give your images a three-dimensional look.
  • Get to know your favorite subjects over a sequence of days, seasons, or even years to create an intimate photographic story.
  • Practice noninvasive photography by working with a long lens from a blind. Keep yourself and the animal safe and free of stress.
  • Create the image you want in the field. Don’t rely on Photoshop to “make your image” when you get home.
  • The Montana outdoors can be hard on camera gear. Invest in good equipment and protect it with quality bags. A solid tripod will keep your camera absolutely still when you make images.
  • Expedite the sorting and editing of your images with specialized software.
  • Value your work by charging for images you publish or distribute.
  • Give back to the natural world by helping a young person learn to appreciate the intrinsic value of our remaining wild places.

Jenna Caplette is a member of the staff at F-11 Photographic Supplies. Learn more about Cox's workshops and see his most recent work at