10 Tips for Creating Interesting Wildlife Photographs - Part II

A photo of a young wild boar in a meadow in Charente-Maritime, France.
A photo of a young wild boar in a meadow in Charente-Maritime, France.

Tip 4: have a suitable camera and equipment

In order to create interesting wildlife photographs, a photographer must have extensive naturalistic knowledge of the species he is photographing and should know how to choose a behavior or attitude to photograph. But he will create technically good pictures if he has the proper equipment. The type of equipment needed depends on the type of animal. For moving animals or swift-moving birds like sparrows, a DSLR with a fast burst mode and a lens with a focal length over 300 mm are essential.

For close-ups of animals, in contrast, a simple SLR or a bridge with an excellent macro lens is sufficient.

In most wildlife photography fields a tripod is necessary, because you may be waiting for a long time. Wild animals do not appear on command. They decide when they will come forward.

Optional accessories, such as a flash, a noise blocker, or a remote trigger can be useful.

If a wildlife photographer wants to create interesting photos, he should definitely have equipment that fits his needs. The equipment does not need to be expensive or the newest available, but it should match the photographer’s needs.

Tip 5: have the right settings on your camera

A wildlife photographer must perfectly master his camera and gear if he wants to create interesting pictures. This technical training often begins with reading the manuals that come with the equipment. In general, the language is pretty incomprehensible to a beginner. The technical documents supplied by the manufacturers of cameras or lenses are just reference documents: they are not written to teach you how to use the device in different situations. The language used is obscure and the content frequently is not arranged in the right order to teach you about the camera. But you have to read it, and then get help understanding it from other photographers.

It is in the interest of the manufacturers to provide complex documents with the camera and then sell courses that teach you how to use it. The goal of the manufacturer is not only to provide equipment. Today, the service for the equipment and the workshops are more profitable than the devices themselves.

For experienced photographers, these technical manuals are very useful because they have mastered all the concepts. They see the document as technical reference material where they come to learn how to use the settings on their equipment.

But whatever level the photographer is on, there should not be anything about his equipment that he does not know, and he should not be learning how to set up the camera on the field. If he is, he will be too late to capture an often-fleeting encounter with wildlife. Wild animals are not good models.

Tip 6: use a blind, approach the animals, or go on a photo walk

Wild animals are often unpredictable. Even when we know their behavior and their habits well, it takes time to create interesting photographs.

The first advice we give to participants in our courses is to learn how to use a blind. Whether in a fixed blind, used for birds and large mammals, or a mobile floating blind, the photographer should be invisible to the animals. The ideal is to blend into the landscape to avoid arousing suspicion. A blind is the easiest way to do this because the animals are not suspicious and act naturally. This is the best technique for capturing natural behaviors and attitudes of life that are not affected by your presence. Learning to use a blind takes time and experience. But once the technique is mastered, it is a real asset for a photographer.

The second most important technique is approaching the animals. This requires perfect knowledge of the terrain. The photographer always stays downwind from the animal he is approaching. On one hand, the wind does not bring his scent to the animals. On the other hand, the animals always move upwind as well to detect potential predators. Once the photographer has spotted his subject, whether with binoculars or with his unaided eyes, he will use the topography of the ground to move forward. The rule is to move forward so that you can see the animals but the animals cannot see you. As with using a blind, this is a technique that takes time to learn. The first trials are often unsuccessful, but how satisfying it is when a photographer is able to get within yards of a wild boar!

Going on a photo walk is the third technique for taking wildlife pictures. It is based on chance encounters with animals. Still, it requires naturalistic knowledge, a good knowledge of the terrain, and the ability to move quietly. It is during lucky meetings that the photographer manages to take his photos.

Using a blind, approaching animals, and going on a photo walk are three different techniques for creating interesting wildlife photographs. But they all require naturalistic knowledge, a good command of the camera, a good knowledge of the field and a good knowledge of the weather.

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