One of the best ways to enjoy and celebrate the wild is to get out there and take some photos. Photography allows us to capture a place and moment in time and bring it home with us for our long-term enjoyment.
There are so many amazing and beautiful things to photograph out there in nature; nature photography - and taking wildlife photos in particular - is a hobby that can bring joy for years to come.
Whether you are visiting a national park, walking a regional trail or are simply a backyard birder, one of the most rewarding subjects to photograph is wildlife. For those of us who love the outdoors, seeing birds and animals in their natural habitat doing their normal, everyday things is always exciting, so if we can catch the moment in a photograph, even better.
However, wildlife doesn't always cooperate. Often, their time in our line of vision is fleeting and once they notice us, they scurry away to safety or take flight. Other times, they may be too far away or may only be showing us their rear when we try to take a photograph.
Still others are too dangerous to approach, and we must stay back. And, as lovers of all things in nature, we don't want to disturb even the safe and docile creatures from their routine.
Yet we see fantastic photos of wildlife in magazines and online all the time - both by amateur and professional photographers - so it is, in fact, possible to get great wildlife shots, and it may be easier than you may think.
Read on to learn some great tips for wildlife photos that you can try on your next trip.
Leave No Trace
If you spend time in the outdoors, you are likely already familiar with the concept of Leave No Trace. If not, it's easy to guess what it is about based on the three words that describe it. Leave wild places wild, and just as you found them. If you're doing the outdoors right, no one should be able to tell that you were even there.
This has as much to do with not littering and not taking anything from the area as it does with our dealings with the animals that live in the wild.
This philosophy applies to all outdoor activities, but it can be applied to wildlife photography in particular. As mentioned above, our first priority, when photographing wildlife should always be not to disturb the wildlife. In fact, if you do it right, they shouldn't even know you are there.
This is important for the health of the wildlife and for realistic photos. If you want the animals you are photographing to act as they normally would, then they will be happiest with you staying far away. If they are stressed, they will act differently, and this can be detrimental to their health and safety.
Practice smart behavior and good ethics in the wild. Respect nature and you and the animals will be safe, happy and healthy, and you will be more likely to get the types of shots you want.
Taking Great Wildlife Photos
Nature photography, in general, can be challenging. More often than not, the image you see with your eyes will not quite be the image you capture with your camera.
So many factors play a part. Light is always an important thing to consider when taking photos of any kind. Composition, exposure, shutter speed, aperture, and ISO are still other factors that can be adjusted on your end to make your photos better - if you know how.
Add in the unpredictability of wildlife, and there's so much to learn.
Face it - you are not going to take great wildlife photos with the camera on your cell phone. If you want to get serious about wildlife photography as a hobby, you will have to invest in some better equipment, and take the time to learn how to use it.
Having the right equipment is vital for successful wildlife photography. You will need a DSLR camera to start, and soon you may also find that you want to also purchase in accessories like a tripod or additional lenses.
For the outdoors, you will want a lightweight camera with a long battery life, but don't let these features be the main drive behind your shopping. What's most important is what your camera can do.
There are thousands of great cameras on the market, and deciding which one to choose can be overwhelming. This useful link will help you by allowing you to compare different models and to read a wealth of reviews.
Settings and Techniques
Cameras today are easier to use than ever thanks to advancements in technology. As a result, we have become used to the concept of just pointing and clicking away. This is great in some ways, but it also has made us complacent and less willing to learn how to adjust photography settings or learn techniques on our own.
Small adjustments can make a big difference when it comes to wildlife photography or nature photography in general. Learning about what each setting does and how to use different techniques to your advantage is critical to your success.
This setting is important because it controls how much light goes into your camera lens, and it also controls depth. Using a wider aperture brings specific objects or creatures into sharper focus.
Shutter speed also deals with light. Rather than controlling how much light enters your lens, shutter speed determines how long the lens is open. A fast shutter speed works great for capturing animals in motion. A long one will instead blur moving objects.
This setting controls your camera's sensitivity to light and is great to adjust for evening or even nighttime photos.
This is where the artistic aspect of photography comes in. There are a lot of compositional techniques to consider when taking photos in nature such as the rule of thirds and keeping your main subject off-center.
Use your viewfinder to set up your shots and try a bunch of different angles. The great thing about digital photography is that today you can shoot, shoot and shoot and pull out the best of the best at the end.
The more images that you shoot, the better chance you have of ending up with a perfect wildlife photo.
There are tons of factors to consider when going out into nature to get great wildlife photos, but in the end, it really comes down to practice. If you get out there frequently, get to know your equipment, learn about settings and just take pictures, in time, those pictures will naturally get better and better.
Consider taking a wildlife photography class in the field to hone your skills even further. It's great to have real-time assistance, suggestions, and critiques when you are just getting started, and then you can move on independently from there.
Soon, your walls will be full of amazing wildlife photos you took yourself. Wildlife photography is a great hobby and is a wonderful way to bring a little of the outdoors home with you while leaving no trace out in nature at all. Enjoy.
If you want to learn more about other nature hobbies for you to enjoy, check out our blog!