The diver­sity of creatures great and small means That wildlife pho­to­graphs are never Too far away, re­gard­less of where you live. This month's guide pro­vides a wealth of hints, Tips , ideas and ex­pert ad­vice To help you Take great an­i­mal im­ages

Digital SLR Photography - - Contents - WORDS: DANIEL LEZANO

Dis­cover your wild side with our in­spi­ra­tional ideas and ad­vice for cap­tur­ing your best wildlife im­ages ever

1 Ex­plore var­i­ous lo­ca­tions

if you're go­ing to shoot a va­ri­ety of im­ages, you'll want to cap­ture a diver­sity of species. the best way to do this is to visit sev­eral lo­ca­tions. While some an­i­mals can be found at nu­mer­ous dif­fer­ent lo­ca­tions, oth­ers are more ter­ri­to­rial. set your­self the chal­lenge of ded­i­cat­ing time to visit dif­fer­ent en­vi­ron­ments and try­ing to cap­ture a se­lec­tion of im­ages us­ing dif­fer­ent tech­niques on a va­ri­ety of sub­jects. For in­stance, why not head to the park and see how you get on cap­tur­ing shots of squir­rels, rab­bits and wa­ter birds. then head to other lo­ca­tions such as wet­land or the coast, as well as your gar­den, and build up your col­lec­tion of im­ages. Us­ing dif­fer­ent lenses will add va­ri­ety: as well as a tele­zoom, cap­ture close- ups with a macro lens and ex­per­i­ment with wide- an­gles too for en­vi­ron­men­tal por­traits. Fi­nally, don't ne­glect the pos­si­bil­ity of trips over­seas – other coun­tries of­fer al­ter­na­tive lo­ca­tions and wildlife, with the ul­ti­mate be­ing an african sa­fari to cap­ture its unique range of wildlife.

2 Visit a wildlife cen­tre

if you're a pas­sion­ate wildlife pho­tog­ra­pher who eats, breathes and thinks all things feath­ered and furry ( well maybe not the eat­ing part!), then it's likely that you can reg­u­larly ded­i­cate lots of time to ex­plore lo­ca­tions and take any op­por­tu­ni­ties that present them­selves. But what if you want to take great wildlife pic­tures but due to work and per­sonal com­mit­ments, you haven't the time? You could travel to a zoo or sa­fari park and take some good im­ages, but a bet­ter op­tion is to visit a wildlife cen­tre. here you'll be able to get up close to species in cap­tiv­ity that you'd nor­mally only find in the wild, such as foxes, owls and dormice. You'll be able to get close, cap­ture nat­u­ral- look­ing re­sults and hone your photo skills. the West coun­try Wildlife cen­tre in devon is a pop­u­lar choice and one we've used on sev­eral oc­ca­sions. to find your near­est cen­tres, con­tact your lo­cal tourist of­fice or search via the web.

3 Don’t ig­nore ur­ban ar­eas

When you think wildlife it's nat­u­ral to think of wild lo­ca­tions to shoot them in, such as parks, coast­line and ru­ral coun­try­side. How­ever, you should also con­sider cities and towns as vi­able ar­eas for ur­ban wildlife too. The most com­mon an­i­mal is the fox, which usu­ally wan­der in at night ( al­though braver ones visit dur­ing the day) to for­age for food around rub­bish bins and bin lin­ers. If your bins are kept in an en­closed pas­sage­way or gar­den and you're happy leav­ing your kit out at night, you could fol­low a sim­i­lar set- up to what I use and place a mo­tion sen­sor on your cam­era and two or more flash­guns to il­lu­mi­nate the scene. Al­ter­na­tively, hide out of view and trig­ger the cam­era with a re­mote re­lease. Hedge­hogs are pop­u­lar vis­i­tors to the gar­den too, so you could try a sim­i­lar set- up for these prickly prowlers. Birds of prey like fal­cons are be­com­ing more com­mon too, if you know where they hunt, shoot from a high build­ing ( a multi- storey car park is ideal) and shoot them against an ur­ban back­drop.

4 Make the most of bad weather While

it's nat­u­ral to want to stay in­side when the weather isn't ideal, you'll ac­tu­ally find in­clement weather pro­vides ad­di­tional vis­ual in­ter­est and at­mos­phere to wildlife shots. Snow and rain can add in­ter­est to ar­eas of the frame around the sub­ject, with at­trac­tive blurred white spots or thin streaks fill­ing the area where nor­mally only blurred, empty space would re­side. Poor weather also con­veys a pow­er­ful sense of iso­la­tion and hard­ship, high­light­ing the bru­tal na­ture of liv­ing in the wilder­ness. Bear in mind how shut­ter speeds af­fect how fall­ing snow/ rain is recorded – use slower speeds to blur and faster to freeze it. En­sure you protect your kit from the el­e­ments to pre­vent dam­age from mois­ture – a weather- sealed cam­era, such as the Nikon D7200, en­sures mois­ture won't ruin your day.

5 An­i­mal por­traits

Cap­tur­ing frame- fill­ing por­traits is one of the most pop­u­lar goals with wildlife pho­tog­ra­phers and many of the tech­niques for suc­cess are the same as for hu­man por­traits. The key fac­tor is en­sur­ing the eyes are per­fectly sharp, so when fo­cus­ing, en­sure the ac­tive AF point is over one of the eyes and com­pose the frame to place it on an in­ter­sect­ing third. Ideally, the sub­ject should be look­ing di­rectly at the cam­era for max­i­mum im­pact. Most an­i­mals are very wary of hu­mans, so to fill the frame you'll need to use a pow­er­ful lens. A 70- 300mm zoom may be suit­able, es­pe­cially when used with APS- C sen­sors that boost their ef­fec­tive fo­cal length, but a bet­ter op­tion is a su­per- tele­photo zoom like the NIKKOR AF- S 80- 400mm f/ 4.5- 5.6G ED VR. Its ad­di­tional reach and sta­bil­i­sa­tion make it ideal for wildlife pho­tog­ra­phy.

6 Don’t for­get the crit­ters Wildlife pho­tog­ra­phy isn't just about shoot­ing large an­i­mals with tele­pho­tos, it's also about smaller sub­jects like in­sects and am­phib­ians. The minia­ture world presents an in­cred­i­ble po­ten­tial for cap­tur­ing stun­ning im­ages of creatures that have a shape and form that's to­tally alien to larger species. What's more, you'll find them ev­ery­where, from the gar­den to the lo­cal park and be­yond, so you don't have to travel far for great shots. What you will need how­ever is equip­ment that cap­tures smaller sub­jects at high mag­ni­fi­ca­tion. A macro lens with life- size re­pro­duc­tion is the best choice, with a tele­photo fo­cal length be­ing ideal, thanks to the longer work­ing dis­tance mak­ing it less likely to scare off sub­jects. Some­thing like the NIKKOR AF- S 105mm f/ 2.8 VR will de­liver pin- sharp re­sults. If you're on a bud­get, con­sider in­vest­ing in auto ex­ten­sion tubes or close- up fil­ters – the Raynox DCR- 250 is our cur­rent favourite.

7 Cap­ture great ac­tion shots The most ex­cit­ing im­ages of wildlife usu­ally have an­i­mals in ac­tion. Whether it's a bird soar­ing, deer rut­ting, or hares run­ning or fight­ing, ac­tion shots have in­stant im­pact and added in­ter­est. They're tricky to cap­ture well, so you need to be set up prop­erly, have as­sured tech­nique and work quickly. Use aper­ture- pri­or­ity, a mid to high ISO rat­ing ( ISO 400- 1000) and a wide aper­ture to give a fast enough shut­ter speed to freeze the ac­tion of fast mov­ing sub­jects. Depend­ing on the sub­ject, aim for speeds from around 1/ 250sec to 1/ 1000sec. En­sure you select con­tin­u­ous drive mode to fire off se­quences. Set the aut­o­fo­cus to con­tin­u­ous AF ( AF- C/ C- AF) to track the sub­ject – you can use multi- or sin­gle- point AF, or bet­ter still select a small group of AF points for pre­ci­sion track­ing. Nikon DSLRS of­fer Dy­namic AF for pre­cise fo­cus track­ing. Keep your sub­ject cen­tral in the frame and keep any move­ment as smooth as pos­si­ble. Once you're con­fi­dent, try shoot­ing at slower shut­ter speeds, such as 1/ 100sec, to try and blur move­ment slightly for a more cre­ative ef­fect. This tech­nique al­lows the main body to re­main sharp while the ex­trem­i­ties, such as the wing tips or limbs, record as a blur.

8 Shoot striking sil­hou­ettes One tech­nique many wildlife pho­tog­ra­phers never think of try­ing is shoot­ing sub­jects as a sil­hou­ette. This in­volves un­der­ex­pos­ing the sub­ject so that lit­tle or no de­tail is present in the im­age and in­stead you cap­ture it as a solid black mass. For this ef­fect to be ef­fec­tive, you need your sub­ject to be placed against a bright back­drop – sun­rise or sun­set is ideal as this gives the most at­trac­tive back­ground. You also need to choose a sub­ject with a de­fined and dis­tinc­tive out­line – birds with pro­nounced beaks and stags are good ex­am­ples. You'll often need to find a po­si­tion lower than your sub­ject to set it against the sky and en­sure it stands out from its sur­round­ings. To cre­ate the sil­hou­ette, ei­ther take a spot me­ter read­ing from the sky, or me­ter nor­mally us­ing the multi- zone pat­tern and ap­ply neg­a­tive ex­po­sure com­pen­sa­tion be­tween 1- 2EV. Us­ing Live­view is ideal as you can en­sure you cre­ate the per­fect ef­fect.

9 Stay out of sight Wild an­i­mals are in­stinc­tively ret­i­cent of hu­mans get­ting too close to them, so you need to do your best to re­main out of sight, or ap­proach them ex­tremely slowly. The for­mer op­tion is by far the best ap­proach and you'll find a good range of cam­ou­flaged prod­ucts avail­able, in­clud­ing cloth­ing and cov­ers for your lenses. if you know a pop­u­lar lo­ca­tion where wildlife vis­its, such as a feed­ing or drink­ing spot, the best op­tion is a hide, which will al­low you sit in rel­a­tive com­fort, set up your cam­era kit and await the ar­rival of your sub­ject. We'd rec­om­mend Wildlife Watch­ing sup­plies ( www. wildlife­watch­ing­sup­plies.co.uk) as an ex­cel­lent source for your cam­ou­flaged items. if you haven't the bud­get to in­vest in camo gear, avoid wear­ing strong, bright colours like red and blue and in­stead wear dark, earthy colours such as green and brown, which are less likely to be no­ticed by your sub­jects.

10 Clas­sic mono­chrome

Most wildlife im­ages are dis­played in colour, but there are times when con­vert­ing them to black & white can re­sult in far more emo­tive im­ages. As with other forms of pho­tog­ra­phy, mono wildlife im­ages can add drama, mood and a time­less qual­ity to im­ages, so it's well worth con­sid­er­ing los­ing colour to suit cer­tain types of im­ages. Mono­chrome par­tic­u­larly suits im­ages of ex­otic an­i­mals, in par­tic­u­lar those you'll find on sa­fari – check out im­ages by mono mae­stros like Nick brandt and David Yar­row and you'll be blown away by the power and ex­tra­or­di­nary time­less­ness of their work. use soft­ware pack­ages like Nik's Col­lec­tion and Dxo's Film­pack 5 and you can tone, vi­gnette and ap­ply other ef­fects like grain to mimic im­ages that could have been shot a cen­tury ago on film.

11 Go wide- an­gle!

For a fresh per­spec­tive, try a wide- an­gle in­stead of a tele­photo lens. With its wide field- of- view, you can in­clude the sub­ject's sur­round­ings in the frame and add con­text to their life­style. Of course, your sub­ject needs to be close, so un­less your sub­jects are rea­son­ably tame, such as these sheep, you'll need to fire the shut­ter re­motely. A wide- an­gle zoom like the NIKKOR AF- S 10- 24mm f/ 3.5- 4.5G DX is a good choice, pro­vid­ing a ver­sa­tile range of fo­cal lengths. Set up your cam­era in a lo­ca­tion you know your sub­ject vis­its reg­u­larly and, if it's a species you can bait with food, place this be­low the lens to at­tract them to­wards the cam­era. Set your cam­era on a bean­bag or small tri­pod, switch to aper­ture- pri­or­ity, con­tin­u­ous drive and set f/ 5.6- 8. En­sure the lens is at min­i­mum fo­cus and set to MF. Now it's a case of hid­ing, wait­ing and once a sub­ject is near, fir­ing off small bursts of im­ages.

12 Re­search your sub­ject You'd be the luck­i­est wildlife pho­tog­ra­pher on the planet if you vis­ited a lo­ca­tion and cap­tured stun­ning wildlife im­ages with­out any prepa­ra­tion. The most suc­cess­ful wildlife pho­tog­ra­phers have done their home­work be­fore head­ing outdoors. They have stud­ied their sub­jects to at­tain a strong knowl­edge of their gen­eral be­hav­iour and life cy­cle. Know­ing the habi­tats they visit, how their coat or plumage varies through their year, any mi­gra­tory pat­terns, their breed­ing cy­cles and their diet will help know where and when to visit par­tic­u­lar lo­ca­tions to max­imise your chance of great im­ages. Build up knowl­edge of your sub­jects by read­ing wildlife publi­ca­tions and study­ing the im­ages of suc­cess­ful wildlife pho­tog­ra­phers, as well as vis­it­ing na­ture web­sites like www. rspb. org. uk and www. wildlifetrusts. org. Once you've learned about your sub­ject, study the tech­niques and photo equip­ment used by lead­ing pro­fes­sion­als to cap­ture im­ages and get ready to prac­tise your own skills!

BEN hall

ben hall


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