Getting up close and personal
As a professional wildlife photographer, I’m often asked how I get so close to the animals without them being spooked or alerted to my presence. The simple answer is that I use a number of different techniques and equipment, ensuring that I remain as inconspicuous and non-threatening as possible, which as a human can be challenging at times. This point of blending in is incredibly important when I’m photographing dangerous animals that may become aggressive if they feel threatened.
For me, one of the key elements for great wildlife photography is conceptualising shots before I begin. By thinking laterally about the type of images I want, the environment I’m working in, as well as the animal’s characteristics and habits, I am able to tell a story with my photographs and capture images that sit outside the normal realms of wildlife photography.
A very effective way to do this, particularly if you’re photographing dangerous wild animals, is to use a well-positioned camera that is remote controlled. This provides a great opportunity to get closer to some of the world’s most fascinating and dangerous animals, with unusual shots that look up from the ground or are on the animal’s eye level.
High-tech wildlife shots
Naturally, this approach requires some specialised equipment to lure animals in closer, as well as withstand any disturbances from the animals, which are invariably curious creatures. One of my more unusual pieces of equipment is a custom-made 14-pound steel box that houses a remote controlled camera. I position the box near the subject, then from a short distance away, I press the shutter button. While it may sound simple, this technique requires perfect timing to take the photograph at just the right moment, which is no mean feat with unpredictable wild animals.
You may well be thinking that a steel box with a camera is going to look far from inconspicuous in a natural environment, but in some cases I apply special ‘treatments’ that have been extensively researched to find the most attractive and enticing smells for the animal in question.
What’s in my equipment arsenal?
Much of the equipment I will take with me on location will depend on the subject matter, climate and lighting conditions of the environment. However, like many photographers I choose a brand and cameras I trust and rely on, which for me are the Nikon D810, D4s and D5. I have been working with these cameras for the last ten years, trusting their abilities and quality.
I use a variety of different lenses to perfectly capture the right image of my subjects, which include the following:
- 105mm macro
- 14-24mm f2.8
- 24-70mm f2.8
- 24mm f1.4
- 35mm f1.4
- 85mm f1.4
- 200m f2
- 300mm f4 and f2.8
- 500mm f4
The equipment that Alex takes with him on location will naturally vary according to the subject matter of the assignment and the lighting conditions/climate of the environment in which he is photographing.
Alex has been using Nikon camera bodies and lenses for almost 10 years, which testifies to the high regard that he has for the quality of the brand’s products. His cameras have withstood exposure to all of the elements; from the intense heat of Vergenoeg (Namibia) to the freezing-cold snaps of Igloolik (Nunavut).
A Nikon D810, D4s and D5 with the following lenses:
• 105mm macro
• 14-24mm f2.8
• 24-70mm f2.8
• 24mm f1.4
• 35mm f1.4
• 85mm f1.4
• 200mm f2
• 300mm f4 and f2.8
• 500mm f4