Posted on July 26th, 2012 No comments
Three exceedingly simple rules to improve your wildlife photos
A mighty, male lion caught in the middle of a roar. A lanky, long-necked giraffe feeding with its family. Perhaps a small hawk precariously, perched high above, ready to take flight. These are the sights that wildlife photographers long for.
So what can you do to increase your chances of bringing back a shot like these? No matter what type of photo gear you have, it’s a short list:
Be there… be ready… be patient.
Obviously, the best photography comes from being where the wildlife are. Knowing the animals’ habits is as important as knowing your camera. In most cases, predatory animals are most active early in the day or late in the day. There’s little chance of finding a lion on the hunt at noon. That’s when they’ll be curled up under a tree somewhere. Not the most exciting shot.
So, before you go, learn not only what animals are likely to be found in a given area, but also learn a little about their habits. Books can be helpful if written specifically about the area you are travelling, but talking to a park ranger or a private guide will usually put you in the best spot for success.
I travelled half the way around the world in search of the Sarus Crane, the largest standing bird in India. I arrived at the lake where the largest concentration of them could be found. Only after arriving at the lake did we discover that our guide had no idea where to find the cranes. The other half of our group went out with another guide and in half the time we spent there, they saw 176 cranes. We saw 0. Bottom line, get good advice and put yourself where the animals are.
Even before arriving at your location, make sure all your gear is ready.
- Flash cards should be erased.
- New batteries should be loaded.
- Lens should be wiped clean.
- ISO and white balance settings should be set.
- Is your shutter speed fast enough for morning or evening lighting conditions
Make a check list of all the preparation items you need to do.
Invariably, something is liable to happen the minute you step out of your car. You might spook a nearby animal or bird that you will never see again all day. If your gear isn’t ready as you leave the car, that’s a shot you’ll never have a chance of repeating.
When a bird lands on a branch right above your location, he might only be there for two seconds. If you are busy getting your camera out of the bag, or taking off the lens cap, he could be gone and never seen again.
If you’ve been given good advice about where to find the animals you’re looking for, you need to wait. Time works in your favour. Stake out your best shooting spot and try to become inconspicuous. Be quiet, be still, and wait. There’s nothing worse than scaring away an animal that has come to the watering hole after you’ve waited an hour for them to arrive.
Often, you’ll be treated to other, less exciting animals showing up first. Look at that as a blessing. It’s time to take some practise shots and time to evaluate if all your settings are correct. When the big game finally show up, you’ll be in place, with proper settings and ready to bring home the pictures you’ll treasure.