Preparation is key when photographing nature and wildlife
With the wonders of software and incredible cameras nature and wildlife photographs have never looked better. What did people do before software and smart cameras? They paid attention to detail and still managed to get amazing images.
When shooting nature, do you want an image soft or crisp? Adjust your depth of field and speed. Pay attention to the frame edge. Do you have any unwanted objects that could wreck an image? See the light! Shadows in the wrong places on anything could render the image unacceptable. In-camera planning, or thinking fast cuts editing time. Time is our most valuable commodity.
Advance preparation ensures you don’t run out of the house and forget something you need like your tripod. Are your battery charged? Do you have backup batteries and memory cards in case they are depleted or you forgot to download a previous shoot and could run out of room? Take water, snacks, or food with you if you plan on being out for a while. I like to carry a granola bar in my bag, which can double as a lure to coax an animal that I want to photograph. Remember do not leave a trace of you behind.
Successful photographers check the weather, sunrise and sunset, phase of the moon or even tidal charts when shooting along coastal waterways. Also, depending on the shoot, a good versatile tripod can help with making wispy looking water or steady focus.
A storm rolling in can make for some incredible images with a dark, moody sky or it can ruin a shoot requiring blue skies and puffy whites. Sunrises and sunsets often explode the sky with color. Summer sunrises come earlier and sunsets later in the day versus winter’s shorter days.Don’t forget your attire. Not being dressed for the weather, terrain, or climate can be painful.
One of the best times to shoot a sunset is after the sun has gone behind the horizon. The spill-back of light on a sky sporadically populated with clouds can be breathtaking when transformed into hues of pink, red and oranges. Likewise, predawn. Think about getting the most color possible in your shot, find water even if it is a puddle, it will reflect the skies color.
Let’s not forget about golden light. It is the color-saturated warm light time of day when the sun is at its weakest points just after sunrise before the sunlight gets harsh and a couple of hours before sunset. Golden light is a warm, soft diffused light free from harsh shadows or blown out highlights.
Knowing a plant or animal’s physiology or biological factors will help you understand when to be there, whether it is the right time of day or the season. Animals are more active at specific times of day or night you need to know this to get the shot you want. For instance, horseshoe crabs live in very few regions of the world. Their annual primordial ritual of rising from the watery depths in the spring and the moon cycle and tide determines it. In conjunction with the rise of the horseshoe crabs, millions of shorebirds which have flown thousands of miles on the way north to their breeding grounds stop on those beaches to feast on the eggs of the horseshoe crab. Timing can be everything.
If I could say one thing about capturing the perfect wildlife image, have patience. It is vital when photographing wildlife. You may have to sit still for hours to get the one shot you want or not. You may not get it the day you expect.
Blinds can be helpful when shooting wildlife to allow you to get closer. You may have to set it up in advance for animals to get used to its presence. There are many types of blinds you can use. Taking screens off windows may allow you to get closer to songbirds in a tree.
Before or during a shoot, I often communicate with Mother Earth by asking for an opportunity to capture a unique image or have a fantastic experience. I always show gratitude for the experience and opportunities that come. Some would call it luck; I say it is a gift for appreciating the wonders of Earth.
Most importantly, have fun. Learn to relax and not stress about missed shots or weather patterns that do not go as planned. Chasing beauty can frustrate you, if that is what you expect every time. Become adaptable. Shoot something else. Be willing to go small by stepping into the wonders of the macro world. For times when you don’t have your camera and are confronted with something incredible, stop, breathe and enjoy the moment.
Photo credits: Robin Coventry.
Nature and Wildlife Photography
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