Wildlife photography became a popular genre long before SLR technology allowed the average person to take part. Starting in the 1800s, media sources such as National Geographic revealed to the world how extraordinary the animal kingdom is. Nowadays pretty much anybody with a decent camera can capture wildlife in its natural habitat.
Of course, simply pointing your camera at the puffin shown above will not provide you with fantastic results. Wildlife photography requires thoughtful technique that implies venturing away from our favorite “Auto” button. This guide will highlight the points necessary to succeed in this wonderful field.
1. Equipment For Wildlife Photography.
More important than purchasing the best equipment is being familiar and comfortable with what you decide to use. Wildlife photographers will agree that the majority of action-packed moments occur within the span of five to twenty seconds. If you spend your time struggling with settings and readjusting your tripod, you might miss that precious window.
Furthermore, every camera model is unique. Before you embark on a shoot, experiment with the different functions of your camera. It’s especially important to know the minimum shutter speed that can achieve a sharp image with your camera/lens combination.
Being able to quickly toggle between focus points is also important, whether that function is controlled by your camera body or your lens. Knowing the limits of your ISO settings will also take you a long way.
Always look ahead and check the weather conditions you plan to shoot under. Your gear choices and camera settings will definitely be influenced by that information.
2. Light it up
There are two periods during which you should plan your wildlife photography ventures. If you have experience with other forms of outdoor photography, you may already know the answer.
Known as the golden hours, these gorgeous moments contain brilliant namely light that casts some of the most dramatic, depth-creating shadows. Jump out of bed early in the morning before the sun
rises to take advantage of the first golden hour. Stay awake for the second golden hour by capturing wildlife during the final gleam of sunlight.
3. Up high, down low
The angle and level at which you photograph your subject will dramatically influence how the viewer perceives it. I prefer to photograph smaller animals such as squirrels and birds either from below or at ground level.
If the small animal was perched on a tree branch or sitting atop a hill, you could photograph them from below and cause them to appear larger and more impressive. Eye-level shots, on the other hand, will result in a more intimate view.
More intimidating creatures should be captured at eye-level. This method forces the viewer to confront the subject and place themselves into the scene.
Photographing animals from above will cause your subject to appear smaller and less intimidating. If your goal is to capture the “cuteness” of an animal, this might be a good idea.
4. Why Patience Is a Necessity
Nature, as we know, is harshly unpredictable. You never know how long it will take to achieve the shot of your dreams, not to mention whether the occurrence will happen at all.
Some National Geographic photographers spend years trying to take a particular shot. Although your goal might not be as lofty, you should approach wildlife photography with the same mindset.
While you wait for the moment to happen, it is imperative to observe your subject and learn about their behavior. Many wildlife photographers claim that this step is more important than capturing the photo altogether. Instead of viewing these moments as dull periods you struggle to endure, treat them as peaceful times of observation that will help you capture a more thoughtful shot.
5. Wider, closer, better
You might want to throw on your biggest, most powerful lens for your next wildlife shoot, but zoom capacity is not a priority here. Wildlife photography is about capturing specimens in their natural environments—not isolating them with your zoom lens and producing a shot that could have been taken in a zoo.
Instead, try creating a wider composition that tells an authentic story about your subject. This philosophy applies whether the organism is a frog or an elephant. Give justice to the surrounding environment and paint a complete picture about the life of the animal.
If you do decide to slap on your zoom lens, get really close. Portray little-seen facial details and compose the photo in a unique way. The resulting pictures will be abstract and more intimate with your subject.
Wildlife photography is a vast universe of technique, observation, and patience. Although you may not capture your dream shot on your first expedition, you will learn more about photography and even more about the world.
So, friend, go out there and get shooting! (With your camera, that is. The alternative meaning would clearly defeat your purpose.)