Photographing in the Wild – Top Tips
Photographing in the Wild – Top Tips
Many people ask me how I do it. They envision hours of nothing, of not moving, of hot, humid or wet conditions and utter boredom. Some of that is…well…true but the end result is that once in a lifetime picture, wild animals up, close and personal and a deep sense of belonging to nature; of being a part of it.
Here’s how it all goes down:
Yes you have to have oodles of it. They do say working with animals and children are the hardest – true! Wild animals; even more so. You never know what they are going to do or where they will be headed next. It involves a strategy of understanding hunting paths, breeding patterns and locating where the best watering holes and feeding grounds are (so long as you don’t become lunch!). Best bit of advice – speak to local guides, trackers and those who work at safari lodges. They know the lay of the land and all that comes with it better than anyone.
With patience comes time. There are no deadlines when photographing wildlife and you have been prepared to do the time to get that one quality shot. There is no way of being able to speed things up. The key is good positioning, a telephoto lens, an array of filters and a little bit of luck. Pray that time will be on your side but don’t give up.
Don’t just be the cameraman. As you follow your targets, be that wild cats or elephants, get to understand them, respect them and learn from them. Make note of eating habits, daily routines and well-travelled routes. Becoming a wildlife pro is not just about knowing how to use the camera but when and where.
The best times of light is morning, afternoon – for that glorious golden hour when the sun basks the earth in this shower of warm light and evening. Sunsets and sunrises are best but need to be well timed. The positioning of the sun in the afternoon can create long shadows that can easily ruin a photo.
Be prepared is my motto. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking just because it is overcast or rainy you won’t get anything – you will be surprised. Some animals don’t like direct sun and others will skedaddle at the first sight of rain. Cooler conditions will bring some out into the open. It depends on what you want to photograph. Yes the weather can change but not all is lost. Have a back up plan always at the ready and don’t be afraid to use the weather to your advantage. Animals can look great in the rain as it really makes hair or fur stand out. Whether you are working in the heat, cold or the wet, ensure you have the right protective equipment for your camera.
Don’t try to get it all – focus!
Shooting everything and anything won’t work – you will be too distracted to focus and will end up with lots of great shots but nothing spectacular.
Animals can get used to you being around but being respectful is key. Don’t put them off from eating, hunting and feeding their young. While you may be able to move closer bit by bit, don’t push your luck by going too far. Eventually you can become an accepted part of their natural habitat and get the shots you have always dreamed at.
You have heard of the 5 p’s right….’preparation prevents piss poor performance’? Don’t mean to be crude but it is true. While procrastination equally won’t get you anywhere, poor preparation won’t either. There is nothing worse than not having the right lens, forgetting back up batteries or missing additional memory cards. Not really knowing where the animal you want to photograph really habitats, you just remember seeing it ‘here’ once (wherever ‘here’ is) is also not conducive to fulfilling day’s work.
Key to capturing fabulous images is, as I mentioned before, understanding your subject. While you don’t know what animals may do next, they are as we are, creatures of habit and with that comes a certain amount of predictability. Be ahead of the game! If the weather is the uncertainty, have wet weather gear at the ready for both and that camera!