The Out­doors­man

Cap­tur­ing the Mo­ment

The Sentinel-Record - HER - Hot Springs - - In This Issue - Story and pho­tog­ra­phy by Cor­bet Deary

We are blessed to live in a state that is abun­dant with wildlife and nat­u­ral beauty. In turn, those who con­sis­tently spend time in Mother Na­ture are apt to find them­selves in sit­u­a­tions where photo op­por­tu­ni­ties abound.

When these sit­u­a­tions oc­cur, a pho­tog­ra­pher is some­what lim­ited by their cur­rent con­di­tions. But it is also up to the one peer­ing through the viewfinder to do their part, as the dif­fer­ence in a so-so shot and a spec­tac­u­lar cap­ture is most of­ten de­ter­mined by their de­ci­sions.

Those who con­sis­tently come home with “knock your socks off” photos are ex­tremely fa­mil­iar with their cam­eras and de­pend upon tech­niques that have proved ef­fec­tive time and time again. And as an out­door pho­tog­ra­pher, I am acutely aware of the im­por­tance of pro­duc­ing shots that set them­selves apart from the norm.

That in mind, with one of the most vi­brant and pho­to­genic sea­sons lurk­ing just around the cor­ner, I thought it might prove ad­van­ta­geous to share a few of the steps that I regularly use in the field.

Wildlife pho­tog­ra­phy is ex­tremely chal­leng­ing, for sev­eral rea­sons. First, most an­i­mals stir right af­ter day­light and just be­fore dark, re­sult­ing in a strug­gle to gather ef­fi­cient light. And even when one does hap­pen upon a crit­ter when there is an abun­dance of light, they are of­ten in a wooded area, re­sult­ing in con­trast­ing con­di­tions.

That be­ing said, it is es­sen­tial to take ev­ery pre­cau­tion to en­sure one's de­ci­sions from be­hind the viewfinder are flaw­less.

Enough can't be said about per­spec­tive. I find it most im­por­tant to po­si­tion one's self where they are shoot­ing at eye level with their sub­ject mat­ter. This tech­nique of­ten proves some­what of a chore, as it is not un­com­mon to take a prone po­si­tion to ar­rive at the most ef­fec­tive com­po­si­tion.

Catch­light is also of ut­most im­por­tance in the wildlife pho­tog­ra­phy world. As in­signif­i­cant as it may seem,

that lit­tle twin­kle of light in an an­i­mal's eyes is es­sen­tial. Catch­light brings life to the sub­ject mat­ter.

It is also very im­por­tant to do one's home­work be­fore step­ping into the field. I'm not just talk­ing about get­ting bet­ter ac­quainted with the cam­era. It is es­sen­tial to have an acute un­der­stand­ing of the an­i­mals that the pho­tog­ra­pher in­tends to cap­ture through the lens.

I've seen count­less wildlife photos that are plenty cutesy, but do not lend to a true de­pic­tion of that par­tic­u­lar species. I sup­pose some pho­tog­ra­phers are OK with a strong com­po­si­tion with vi­brant col­ors. But I per­son­ally am more about cap­tur­ing a scene in a man­ner that those who are look­ing at the photo feel a sense of ac­tu­ally be­ing in a nat­u­ral en­vi­ron­ment and see­ing what I cap­tured first hand. And with­out to­tally un­der­stand­ing an an­i­mal's habits it is dif­fi­cult to re­lay such a feel­ing.

Also, those who have an un­der­stand­ing of our na­tive wildlife will ob­vi­ously ex­pe­ri­ence an in­crease in photo ops. It only makes sense. The more knowl­edge­able one is about an an­i­mal's habits and the en­vi­ron­ments they pre­fer, the eas­ier it will be to sit­u­ate them­selves in ar­eas where their sub­ject mat­ters fre­quent most.

Land­scape pho­tog­ra­phy is not as tricky as com­pos­ing wildlife shots. It does, how­ever, have its share of chal­lenges. And suc­cess is also de­pen­dent upon var­i­ous tried and true tech­niques.

Although a bulk of the most im­pres­sive land­scape shots will also take place near day­light and dark, light, or a lack thereof, are of not as much of an is­sue as they are dur­ing wildlife pho­tog­ra­phy.

For­tu­nately, land­scapes do not move, and shut­ter speeds are not an is­sue. In fact, leav­ing the shut­ter cur­tain open for long pe­ri­ods of­ten lends to some of the most in­cred­i­ble land­scape shots.

The most im­por­tant tool of land­scape pho­tog­ra­phy is, hands down, a tri­pod. This de­vice will al­low the pho­tog­ra­pher to take long ex­po­sures with­out the worry of cam­era shake. It also of­fers the op­por­tu­nity to com­pose a photo with great ac­cu­racy. When choos­ing a tri­pod, bear in mind sta­bil­ity and con­sider a model that is ef­fec­tive in an ar­ray of ter­rains.

As cooler days and vi­brant scenes near, it's time to start re­search­ing — choos­ing lo­ca­tions that no­to­ri­ously pro­vide photo op­por­tu­ni­ties ga­lore. One might con­sider a trip to south­west Arkansas where they can cap­ture the sheer beauty await­ing at the Lit­tle Mis­souri and Cos­satot River ar­eas.

Those long­ing to cap­ture the Ozarks will not find a short­age of photo ops. Kings River Falls is al­ways pho­to­genic, while Lost Val­ley and the herds of elk roam­ing the Box­ely area al­ways pro­vide the pho­tog­ra­pher with plenty to keep them peer­ing through the viewfinder.

These lo­ca­tions are but a few of what awaits in this won­der­ful state we call home. The key is get­ting out as much as pos­si­ble and an ea­ger­ness to cap­ture the won­der­ful out­doors.

Although the proper per­spec­tive can of­ten prove a chore, one of the keys to wildlife pho­tog­ra­phy is set­ting up at eye level with the sub­ject mat­ter.

Those with an in­ter­est in wildlife pho­tog­ra­phy should get ac­quainted with, and learn the habits of, the species they plan to pho­to­graph. The Lit­tle Mis­souri River area is a great photo des­ti­na­tion dur­ing the fall sea­son.

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