Finding Your Urban Wilderness

If you enjoy outdoor photography, you don’t need to travel far to take attractive pictures. Urban and suburban locations offer plenty of photo ops. The key is to find picturesque spots and avoid signs of civilization in your shots. These spots may contain all the elements you need for a wilderness photo.

Nature Photography: bald cypres trees at rest at Wheeler Wokdlife Regue headquarters near Decatur, Alabama.
Bald cypress trees at Wildlife Refuge. (iPhone)

If you can’t travel far to photograph wilderness, consider the woods and water not far from home. A little planning can reward you. The trick is to keep lookout as you travel about your city. Note the small patches of trees and suburban streams showcased by trees. Then remember to look up–the treetops above can present unique patterns and colorful shapes.


Many urban and suburban areas have greenbelts with bikeways and walking paths. But don’t overlook areas in or between nearby neighborhoods. These are rich areas for outdoor photography. The image below was shot into a quarter-acre of oaks and pines preserved as a barrier between two neighborhoods. To set up a similar shot, find an angle that avoids rooftops, lamp posts and other signs of civilization.

Small patch of woods between two neighborhoods
Small patch of woods between two neighborhoods


Search the margins of a city where urbanization borders with old farmland, parks, or municipal boundaries. These margins are often marked by tree lines that separate properties. Also notice any natural barriers that mark historical features serving as reference points along the border between property or cities.

Mill Creek in Madison, Alabama


Treetops serve as willing subjects for outdoor photography. Point your camera upward. Because you’re elevating your view angle above streets and houses, your shots emphasize nature, not its urban surroundings. In the treetops explore mixes of complex branches and vibrant canopies of leaves with dramatic or delicate clouds.

Tree on a hillside along an urban greenway in Huntsville, Alabama


Sunsets and sunrises present opportunities for capturing contrasts between a darkened earth and the light of sky. Keeping a line of trees as a black silhouette, look for a contrasting bright or colorful sky with the interesting shapes of clouds. In the winter, bare branches contrast with soft clouds while summer’s storm clouds have the depth and complexity of mountains.

Dramatic clouds at sunset over neighborhood trees