Couple of decades back Wildlife Photography was reserved only for a select few. Exhibitions on wildlife Photography used to be a rare sight as well. Ever since the DSLR technology took over this planet, this genre of photography seems to be doing its round of ‘popularity’. Figures say that 2 out of 5 photographs aspire to be a wildlife photographer. This is especially true in a country like India, where there are several Wildlife Sanctuaries and National Park that one could go to, to build on their skills in photography
Sharing photography tips in conjunction with this genre is relatively a simple process. The biggest challenge lies in implementing it, for the photographer should not only be clicking but also be wary of the environment he/ she is in.
Know Your Environment
Every inch of the forest cover has some kind of a life form. Most of the photographers, in order to get the best of the imagery resort to certain extremes that are harmful for wildlife. Recently, a group of photographers had driven their jeeps into a restricted area, chasing a Leopard. Least did they know, that they had ran over at least 50 eggs of Yellow Wattled Lapwings, build have their nests only on ground.
It is important to understand the habitat that one is in and the local laws, before venturing deeper. In a forest, you should always remember the popular saying ‘You are not watching, you are being watched’.
Remember to stay safe and alive. Burrard-Lucas, a famous wildlife photographer – once lost a camera to a lion. Thankfully, it was attached to one of his prototype buggies and not his neck.
Know Your Asset
This is the cliche tip – the first tip anyone would give, but the most important. It is inevitable that every photographer understands the capabilities and the limitations of their gear. The action part in wildlife photography lasts only seconds and a photographer needs to work in a lightening speed in order to get those ‘wow images’.
Understand the minimum shutter speed at which you can obtain a sharp image with your camera and lens, how to quickly toggle between focus points or focus modes, know how high you can push your camera’s ISO setting and still achieve acceptable results.
Always remember the quality of lens plays a larger role in wildlife photography. If you can afford a fixed focal length of 50 mm, 400 mm, 500mm or 600 mm with a smaller aperture number (f2.8) – you can be running for the wildlife photographer of the year contest!
Research and Research
Joe Capra, a wildlife and time-lapse photographer who has been featured by outlets like National Geographic, Animal Planet and Discovery Channel emphasises the importance of preparation. “Research the wildlife that’s likely to be present at your shooting location. Try to learn about their behaviour, movements and habitat. Research the location you’ll be shooting so you’re able to maximise your chances of finding the wildlife, the best places to shoot from and which direction sunlight will be coming from at various times of day.”
Wake Up Early
It is inevitable that a wildlife photographer has to start the day early in order to make the most of the hours of golden light. Wildlife moments are known to be at its best from 5:30 AM to 9:30 AM and from 5 PM to 7 PM. The light over midday (11 AM to 4 PM) is generally harsh and robs the images of that valor that it needs.
You cannot call yourself a wildlife photographer unless patience is your virtue. Photographers have known to spend years to get one shot of the rarest species.
Angle Of Image
Try to be out of the box with the angles. It is always good to click at the level of the animal or go aerial. Frogs perspective could add humor to the images at times.
Shoot Wide Or Closer Debate
Though I have mentioned the fixed focal length as the best lens for wildlife photography, it is always a debate as to which is the best – should we capture the species with its landscape or get closer with the bigger lens? The answer totally depends on the location. Sometimes it is good to get closer with a larger lens and show the dramatic textures on the animal itself. It is also imperative that we photograph the species in its habitat which also sort of shows the landscape it lives in.
Figure Out The Story
An image should not have distractions. Figure out your story in the subject and shoot only that. Too many subjects in one image is a shame.
Photo Credits: Shrilekha Venkateswar
The background you include or exclude plays a vital factor on the quality of your image. The most dramatic wildlife photos usually include a very simple, and non-distracting background. Photos with cluttered and distracting background cause your subject to get lost in the image/scene. Remember less is more.
Never forget that you are in the space of wild creatures and they deserve their space and privacy. Using flash lights can cause a lot of harm. As a principle, I never shoot after 6 PM. In order to be a good Wildlife Photographer – respect the laws of nature and call it off, when it needs to be called off.