Wildlife Photography Tips

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By Chris Benson

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For hunters and anglers, there is something indescribable about being outdoors. Those who live the lifestyle and obsess with every aspect of their chosen quarry will find any excuse to get out and enjoy nature. Photography, much like hunting, gives the photographer the rare chance to truly submerse themselves in the outdoors with the hope to get that one perfect shot!  

When to Photograph Wildlife 

 Wildlife is most active in the early morning, and from late afternoon to sunset. Photographers call this period “the golden hour”. With the sun low to the horizon it adds soft warm light on your subject, adds texture, and gives the image more of a three dimensional look. Contrary to this, during midday the light is harsher, flat and casts unappealing shadows on your subject. Shooting into the sun with your subject silhouetted against the sky can also produce a fantastic images! 

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Get Down to Their Level 

If you have ever shot a picture of young children, you will eventually notice that standing and lording over your subject and shooting down at them does not make for an impactful or flattering image. You need to get down to their eye level, this may mean you are kneeling or lying down. When shooting wildlife the eye of your subject should always be in focus. The only exceptions to this, is when dealing with multiple subjects in one image.  

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Habitat/close 

When you are shooting wildlife, capturing some aspect of the habitat that animal is in is just as important as capturing the subject. Isolating the subject and removing them from their environment can take away the connection the observer might have with that image and make the viewer question if that animal is a tame one or wild one. The environment add context to the image. Contrarily, using a long lens to get really close to the animal is also very effective. Filling the entire frame with the iridescence speculum of Mallard or the head of massive Black Bear massive is also very eye catching. It all depends on what kind of story you are trying to tell with your image.    

Action! 

As the viewer, what is more pleasing to the eye, A Canada Goose swimming calmly on a pond or that same goose cutting wind as it steaks to land in the pond? If you really want to capture the viewer’s eye try to capture some sort of action shot of the subject, it can be as simple as a yawn or as dramatic as two bull elk in full rut clashing with one another.  

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Patience 

Ask any of your hunting buddies, and they will tell you harvesting that big eight point whitetail didn’t just happen. To be a hunter, angler or photographer you need to have the patience. To know your quarry or subject and be prepared to put in a lot of time often in uncomfortable situations to get that one perfect shot 

Cameras and equipment

Photography is more accessible than ever with the advent of smartphones. While these little cameras are great for taking hero shots of your friend catching that monster Lake Trout, trying to take a picture of wildlife at a long range can be challenging. Stepping up to a digital camera with removable lenses will certainly improve your photography. The real cost however is lenses, and good lenses aren’t cheap. That said, even the most basic camera whether it is a smart phone or digital camera can take amazing photos as long as work within the limits of your equipment and know what it is capable of. 

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 Lenses 

When using a digital camera for wildlife photography, you’re going to need a telephoto lens. Telephoto lenses compress and narrow your view and bring far away subjects closer. Each lens has a focal length that is express in millimeters (mm). Shorter focal lengths give a wider field of view while higher focal lengths give a narrow field of view. Many lenses are zoom lenses which offer a range of focal lengths such as 70-300mm. These lenses have wide range of focal lengths to work with. The down side is generally speaking the images you take at the extreme range of the focal lengths aren’t as sharp. Fixed focal length or prime lens offers much better image quality but no flexibility on the focal range. Prime lenses generally are also much more expensive than zoom lenses.  

Final Thoughts 

Photography is an amazingly rewarding past time, hobby or profession. There is nothing more rewarding than to be out and capture that one perfect image. It will take time, so develop your own story and enjoy the journey! 

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