Learning the wild way
Alexandre Amatori is dedicated to mastering his craft
I suppose I started in photography like most people – I had a compact camera to take pictures of family occasions and holidays. Three years later I took the plunge and bought a Nikon D7000. I wanted to be outside, in contact with wildlife, and as I was fascinated by small animals, insects and so on, I started with a macro lens. Next I added a telephoto zoom to my kit so I could shoot birds, deer and foxes.
When shooting, I’ll first research an animal’s habitat and behaviour so I can predict their movements. Local wildlife associations are very helpful here – they can provide maps with
observation points, and in France a particularly good organisation is the
LPO ( Liguede Protection des Oiseaux/ Association for the Protection of Birds).
I’ve learned a lot from other photographers’ stories, and advice from hunters about camouflage – you learn very quickly that being too visible is a definite disadvantage.
Shooting wildlife is a constant learning curve. One issue I encounter frequently is the rapid change in light levels, from full sun into deep shadow. I use auto ISO, which is not always the best choice, but often you don’t have time to think about settings. The main lesson I’ve learned is to have patience and humility. Wildlife doesn’t care about you, and it doesn’t wait for you, and sometimes you have to be prepared to come home without a decent shot.
You clearly have an eye for wildlife photography Alexandre, and you’ve got some great photos, but a few issues jump out. A couple of shots show the signs of ISO being pushed to an unacceptable level, and this normally comes from using an overly long focal length, combined with a narrow aperture or fast shutter speed – with auto ISO selected the camera may push the sensitivity to levels which introduce noise. You can combat this by reducing the shutter speed and using a monopod or tripod – you might also want to consider purchasing a long prime lens.
The advanced focus-tracking on your D800 is worth using, especially when a subject is moving erratically. Also try assigning focusing to the back AF-ON button, so it can be constantly adjusted when you’re shooting.
01 comon star ling Nikon D7000, Sigma 150-500mm f/5-6.3 APO DG OS HSM, 1/250 sec, f/9, ISO800
02 Hide an d seek Nikon D800, Sigma 150-500mm f/5-6.3 APO DG OS HSM 1/640, f/6.3, ISO280
03 red queen Nikon D7000, Tamron 90mm f/2.8 SP AF Di, 1/1000 sec, f/7.1, ISO800