Nature and Wildlife Photography Tips
Before heading out, do your homework. Be as educated as possible, before you ever make a photograph, though you never can be totally prepared.
What Gear to Pack
A good bag is worth its weight in gold. All the planning in the world isn’t worth much unless you can comfortably carry your essential tools with you. Find a camera bag that can carry the gear you need easily and is especially comfortable on your body.. Bags range greatly in price and quality, but you usually get what you pay for. For added piece of mind, you might consider a bag that is semi-waterproof or water-resistant. A rain cover is also a useful addition.
A good pair of hiking shoes or boots is one of the most important pieces of gear for any Nature or Wildlife photographer. Grit, Dust, mud, Insects, rocks and creepy crawlies – you need a pair of shoes or boots that can handle all these elements. If your feet become uncomfortable, it won’t be long before you start thinking about cutting your trip short.
Prepare a Checklist
It’s always a good idea to have a mental checklist before beginning. Ask yourself the following questions:
- Are any Special Permits or Permission Required? Some National or State parks and Wildlife Sanctuaries require special permits for access to certain areas, especially those deemed as back country environments.
- Where Will I Leave my Vehicle? If you park your vehicle in an unauthorised area, you will be stuck with a sizable fine or worse, return to your vehicle to find it had been towed.
- Are There any Time Restrictions of any Kind? Most natural areas and parks have hours of operation just like a business. You might arrive expecting to shoot a great sunrise, only to find out the location you chose isn’t accessible until after daybreak. Also remember that wild creatures and critters are usually most active in the early morning or late evening.
- What are the Expected Weather Conditions? This is a biggie. Know what to expect as far as the weather is concerned. Check the forecast the day of departure and keep tabs on it throughout the day if possible. NEVER chance endangering yourself or your equipment by venturing out unprepared for bad weather.
- What are the Times for Sunrise and Sunset? Make sure the places are accessible during those times and be aware of the schedule so that you can allow enough time to reach your location and set up your gear before it’s go time.
- Are There Any Commonly Photographed Animals, Landmarks or Structures? Research what is usually photographed around the area you plan to visit. Find a park ranger or staff member and ask about lesser known spots that are less travelled by tourists. Knowing what’s popular will save you time and help to avoid shooting a scene the same way it has been done, time and time again. Look for ways to be creative and set your work apart.
Here are a few basic tips that can help you after you reach your destination.
Raw files are basically unprocessed, one might say uncooked, straight from your camera’s image sensor. They contain a mass amount of pixel information. When compared to JPEG, they take up a lot more memory card space. However the added information allows more latitude for adjustments in post processing.
Use the Lowest Practical ISO
The ISO number of photography film and image sensors relates to their sensitivity to light. The higher the ISO number the less light is required to make an image, however this can increase the noise. There are times when a fast shutter speed is often needed to capture the quick movement of wildlife and increased noise is far less noticeable than a blurred image.
AF Can be Your Best Friend or Your Worst Enemy
A great tool when photographing most wildlife and keeping a moving subject in focus. Place your selected focus area over the subject and half press the shutter button to engage AF. Focus will be tracked for as long as you follow your subject while maintaining pressure on the shutter button. Read your camera manual for detailed information.
Don’t Forget the Tripod
“I really think I would need my tripod” are words that usually begin a sad story about how a potentially great shot is missed. It’s better to have access to one and not need it, than to need it and not have one available.
Learn so you can prepare. Prepare so you can photograph.
Photograph so you can Grow.
Photographing wildlife can be difficult but it can also yield huge artistic, personal and even spiritual rewards. So go out and have fun doing what you do, but don’t forget to put the camera down every now and then to enjoy the world around you.
Nature never goes out of style.