Wildlife Photography – Basic Tips
A few months ago I submitted some of my images to a wildlife photography competition (a few can be found here) – I don’t think any of them got anywhere as I haven’t heard anything from the organizers, unless… they lost my e-mail address or simply forgot to send me a message saying something like “congratulations…” – hope’s always the last to die!
This was my first attempt and I’m not really a wildlife photographer, which is why I’m not too disappointed; I’d rather use another word starting with letter “D” – I’m DETERMINED to have better photographs for the next year.
In order to get better at something you need to practice and, as wildlife is not the easiest subject to capture, I decided to start with some very basic theory (no ISOs or shutter speeds this time…). Below you’ll find that “theory” as just a few tips, that might become useful at some point in your life – it’s really fun to take photographs of nature. Oh, and the illustrations – a male cockchafer, that I found in my garden.
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Wildlife is most active at dawn and dusk, so… get up early. It may sound obvious but this often means very early indeed, ideally you want to be in a position before the sun is up. Many times it might involve wasted journeys and alarm calls, but unless you are prepared to do this you cannot expect rewards.
Sweat. If the situation dictates climbing a tree or mountain, do not blanche at it. If you are out of condition for such hardships get in shape.
Before spending a fortune on a photography expedition to Africa, hone your skills in your own backyard. Find a good “practice subject” and work on your basics, so that when you go after bigger, more impressive animals, you will have a solid foundation in the basic techniques and you will stand a better chance of capturing a great image.
Get to know your subject’s behavior and do your research. If you are going to a new area, do not just rely on local people to help you. Gorge yourself on every book on the area including coffee table books, so you are up to speed upon arrival. Read books and talk with hunters or experts on the species – fro e.g. your local university may have researchers who specialize in the animal you’re trying to capture.
Be original. Many people have fixed ideas of what they want to take; a leopard up a tree, a snow monkey with frosted whiskers, a cheetah running. By all means try these, but they are hardly original. Look at a situation from left field and bring some originality to your photos.
Be quiet and patient. Impatience will get you nowhere with wildlife. As well as a huge budget the Planet Earth team had the critical commodity of photography – time. Much better to spend longer in one place than a whistle stop tour around a country. It often is frustrating and this is perfectly understandable, but don’t let it affect you as it will tarnish your efforts.
Relax. If you are photographing in the wilderness, be it Moremi, Siberia or Vancouver Island, just being there should be enough. Relax and enjoy where you are, your results must show an understanding of your environment not a competitive urge to photograph everything that moves.
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