Quick Tips to Wildlife Photography
Wildlife photography is a specialized field with professionals and amateurs pursuing it in equal measure. For the professionals it is a very competitive field, but also one that is driven by passion for photography, wildlife and nature. The tribe of amatuer wildphotographers is a growing one. This is a result of more and more people being able to afford reasonably good equipment and take holidays and time off to explore nature and wildlife. Here are a few brief tips for wildlife photography.
Know your equipment: It is a good idea to read up the manuals and be familiar with your equipment and its settings. Do experiment with the camera in the manual mode and know the different options and the effect it has on the pictures you take. Try shooting in manual mode, as this gives you many options and varying results – a wide variety to pick your final images from.
Carry the right equipment: It is always ideal to carry a tripod, this for a few reasons. The stability that the tripod gives ensures sharper and better quality pictures. The larger longer lens that one is likely to use is more susceptible to vibration causing a shake in the image, tripods help in minimising the effect. Shooting wildlife can take long hours of wait and it is best to have the camera bound to the tripod to be able to shoot when the opportunity and the moment comes your way. Shooting wild pictures handheld can be a lot more challenging and less productive in terms of the quality of pictures.
Unobtrusive: Be as unobtrusive as possible, do not disturb the natural environs. Stay low and quiet and wait for your subject to appear and when you have them shoot fast and long and get as many pictures.
Control and manage vibrations: Most of wildlife photography includes using large lenses, the telephoto lenses with focal lengths over 200mm. These long lenses magnifies the smallest of vibrations from the shutter. Place your hand along the length of your lens as you are shooting the pictures, this minimises the vibrations on the lens and gives you sharper clearer images.
Seek Eye Contact: When shooting an animal or bird, aim to get eye contact, if the animal or bird is looking straight into your lens it is likely to produce a far more engaging photograph then otherwise. The viewer is engaged with the subject when the eyes are staring into the camera.
Food & Watering holes: A large part of wildlife photography is to find the subject one is looking for be it an animal or bird or for that matter even flora. Research the environment, know what to expect and where. Follow the food and you are likely to find you subject sooner than later. Watering holes are another sweet spot to find animals, hunter and prey alike. It is easier to stake out, set up the tripod and camera and wait the perfect moment and then shoot away, fast and as many as you can.
Capture the surroundings: When shooting your subject be it flora or fauna ensure you capture the surroundings, even if you do take a few macro shots. In wildlife photography the surroundings are just as important as the subject itself. It gives the viewer the overall atmosphere and feel and he or she is then able to better experience the overall image or series of images and be part of what you experienced as a photographer and nature lover.
Compose the picture: Scope the area you are going to shoot,if you have a subject in mind have a rough idea where you want the subject in the picture, use the ‘one third rule’. Draw two vertical and two horizontal lines on your viewing area, cutting it into 9 quadrants. The sweetest spots are where the lines meet. Keep the subject in the focus area. Some cameras even allow you to choose the quadrant you want to focus on. It is a rule of thumb, if you are working on something specific or experimenting, break the rule but good to know the rule none the same.
Patient: Patience is the name of the game in wildlife photography there have been times photographers have waited for hours, days on days and even weeks. Be patient and when the opportunity presents itself shoot the picture you have been waiting for.
Golden Hour: Golden hour is a commonly and widely used term in wildlife photography. It is at dusk or dawn, when the light is best suited and gives a golden aura and aesthetic beauty to the images. Also an hour where one is likely to sight wildlife and the different characters in the forest. Use the light well, it is the ideal time to shoot pictures when the shadows are lengthening the play of light on nature. Avoid shooting when the sun is right up, the light and the way it falls makes it difficult for the camera to capture images. Cloudy days are another good time for the way light plays.
Wide shots: As much as telephoto lenses are most used, it is good to take a wide angled lens and shoot some pictures. It captures the overall landscape and the subject well.
Shoot often and fast: Do not look at viewing the images you have shot, that can wait. Shoot fast and as many as possible. For the subject and the mood is fast changing. You can at a later time sift through and pick the best images and many a times you have no way of knowing when you will get the pose you want or what you might stumble as you continue to shoot your subject
These are but brief pointers, explore and experiment with all of them. Time and experience are and will be your best friends in your journey of wildlife photography.
A recap of the points to looks out for
- Know your Equipment & Carry the right equipment
- Use tripod – as far is possible
- Shoot Manual
- Be as unobtrusive as possible
- Control the vibrations
- Seek eye Contact
- Follow the food & Watering holes
- Golden Hour & Use the light
- Wide angle shots
- Shoot fast and Many