Capturing the Moment
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.