Watching, observing, and photographing wildlife can be very rewarding. Capturing images in a natural setting, while the critters are demonstrating natural behavior, are just a few of the challeges us photographers are faced with. This week I am going to cover 5 wildlife photography tips that have worked for me.
1) Be calm! Calm nerves has defiantly worked for me. I truly believe animals can sense excitement, anxiety, fear, etc. Prey animals know they're in danger. Being stalked, even though they can't see the predator, they know something isn't right and they flee. Many of us see an animal for the first time and our hearts start racing, we panic and miss our chance at a good image. Similar to when a hunter gets "buck fever". It also makes our subjects nervous and more likely to look for an escape route.
2) Know your subject! If you know the behaviors of your subject, you can stay one step ahead, and capture the great moments. Instinct plays a key role in animal behavior. If you know when and how an animal feeds, mating rituals, nesting arrangements, all these and other factors will give you a leg up and help you capture a critter doing everyday natural activities.
3) Take Cover! Most animals are familiar with humans. Most animals are familiar with cars and trucks. Whatever the reason, they are less threatened by a vehicle. I photograph most wildlife from inside my car. Critters are less concerned about me and more concerned about their next meal. The opposite would be true if I were outside the vehicle. If you are really into it, there are all sorts of camo outfits for you and your camera gear.
4) Get a Long Lens! Sometimes you need the right tools for the job. If you are photographing mid to large sized animals, than a 300mm or 400mm reach is a good starting point. If you are into birds, than I would say 600mm is where you want to start at. When it comes to birds I don't think there is such thing as too much lens. These lenses aren't cheap, but it's essential to get those award winning captures.
5) Be patient! It takes time to make a wildlife image. Hours, days, sometimes weeks if you have an elusive subject. Don't expect to run out, grab some images and come home. Expect the opposite. Expect to go out, sit for 3 hours and see absolutely nothing.
This weeks post image was taken in the delta region of Arkansas. I sat by this swamp for an hour or so in mid morning. I was watching some birds and ducks when I seen this guy headed towards me. He was looking for some breakfast. I stayed calm, I had my 70-200 with a 1.4 extender attached, I was in my vehicle, and I waited until he was close enough for me to photograph him. He was about 10' away and wasn't even bothered by my presence, even after I ripped off a few bursts from the 7D.