Getting low: If I’d not found the two seconds to bend my knees and aim my camera out of the vehicle window instead of pointing down off the roof, I would have lost the sense of space this angle gave me.
Five Wildlife Photo Tips You’ve Never Seen Before
While there are many online posts of wildlife photography tips, with such valuable ones as focussing on the eye or creating space around your subject, I recently noted that many such posts seem to contain the same tips, over and over. So I’ve endeavoured to create a short list that, hopefully for at least some of them anyway, you may not have encountered before.
These are based on my own experiences over the last few years, and while I write them with an African photo safari in mind, I’m sure they are relevant to other genres of wildlife photography too.
1 – Get low (for the horizons)
Most of us are aware that getting low enables you to get you to eye level of your subject, for eye contact or intimacy , but getting low can also push the horizon down and out of the way, leading to clean out of focus backgrounds instead of unwanted and unattractive foliage. Because there is now a far greater distance between the subject and the next nearest distant object (e.g a distant horizon versus the terrain it’s on), achieving out of focus backgrounds are far more likely. And at the same time you still retain the subject’s natural surroundings but without obtrusion.
2 – Always look behind (or around) you
Because you never know what arrives when your attention is taken by what is in front of you. Often we can be too focussed on what’s happening within our viewfinder to remember that we exist in a 360° world. It would be unfortunate too to miss something interesting about to occur between your subject and a new unsighted approaching one if you’re caught unawares.
3 – Take the opportunity when you can (because it may be your last chance)
It was at the end of the second or third day of a seven day trip when I noticed alone on a plain, a bull elephant as the sun was dipping. It was all set for a memorable sunset and all the elements were there for a picture I’d long envisaged. But I was tired, I’d seen him there before and there would be more sunsets anyway. Well so I thought, because that was the last time I saw him, and that was the very last such sunset for the remainder of my trip. No matter how tired you are, don’t be fooled into thinking that there will be another chance another day.
4 – Stay with your subject as long as possible
Because they’re a little like us in that when strangers are around, they’re not yet ready to relax and be themselves. They may be nervous and a little wary of you. Once they see that you pose no threat, then eventually they’ll resume normal routines. I’m thinking of lions as I write this, but this would apply to most subjects. Staying with your subject for longer also increases the chance of something a little more special, like a hunt for example if you’re lucky. Racing around taking in new subjects out of impatience is the best way to miss a normal regular part of any given subject’s daily routine.
5 – Don’t review your images too soon
For the most part, my preference is not to review images at the end of the day, save checking that it’s all is exposed and focussed ok. Any wildlife encounter is still all too fresh in our minds and anticipations of results can often run abnormally high during the short time afterwards. Anticipation becomes a little more subdued after time passes, lessening any chance of disappointment. How many times have you reviewed your pictures later, weeks later even, only to find that your pictures weren’t really so bad after all?
I’m sure there are many more unseen tips based on experiences of others. As I said these are my own and in time I hope to be able to discover more, whereupon I will be able to offer more. So whenever that happens, I’ll post them here too :)