USING A TRIPOD
A tripod can and will improve your photographs in many ways. Ideally it holds your camera rock-solid still. Now you have the choice to use any shutter speed thereby enabling you to increase the depth of field by shooting a smaller aperture. You can also use fine-grained, slower films, such as Fuji Velia. The time on a clock does not matter either; for on a tripod, you can make time exposures of city lights or stars at night. Tripods will also help you artistically. Just the effort to set up your tripod and putting your camera on it commits you to composing your more meticulously. Youre more likely to look at all four corners of the image.
Taking notes helps you to remember what you did for a photograph, including the light and weather conditions and where you were. I carry a caption book with me everywhere I shoot. By writing down the roll number, date, camera used, film used, and the location, I have a record to look back at whenever the need arises. This is very important on a long trip, since many locations tend to blend together. I also note the weather, lens, exposure, and special things I do - all of which helps me learn what to do the next time in the same situation for better pictures.
KNOWING YOUR CAMERA
Always be ready. That's my number one rule when walking in the field, paddling a canoe, or sitting in a blind. When a wildlife subject comes by, you sometimes only have a second to compose and shoot. Buy your gear a few pieces at a time and become an expert with each lens or accessory before you buy something else. Know all the buttons and what they do. Practice using automatic and manual settings, panning, and focusing. You can use joggers or cars going by for practice. Practice with the camera you use most until it's a part of you.
GETTING OUT IN THE WILD
You can't, of course, take great nature pictures from your couch or in front of a television. Find a sunset spot near your home you can race out to when the clouds and light reflections are great. Explore parks and trails around home in your spare time. On weekends and holidays, go, go, go to the wild! Being there comes before being ready; do both and your nature photography will improve in quantity and quality.