SPECIAL: PHOTOGRAPH WILDLIFE
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
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!