Great wildlife photography comes from the heart and not the head, but one important step in achieving that great image is having the right gear for the job. This does not mean you have to own the most expensive or the latest equipment to take good wildlife photographs, but you must have a thorough knowledge of the right kit for the right situation - and how to use it properly.
The camera equipment is merely the tool used to achieve the image you desire.
Here are a few tips to get you started in wildlife photography:
- Never harass wildlife - abide by the Code of Ethics for nature and wildlife photography and viewing.
- Always be alert. Know what's around you and educate yourself on what safety precautions you may need to take.
- Know your camera. If you have to search and fiddle with the controls, you'll miss the shot. If your camera has manual features, you'll be pleasantly surprised by the difference it makes using them instead of its automatic ones.
- When you get to a location, examine what's around you. Though you may have stopped for that heron you saw earlier, there may be a magnificently colored worm at your feet. Yes indeed, worm are wildlife too!
- Wait for natural action. Be very patient and you'll be rewarded with stunning opportunities.
- Focus on the animal's eyes when possible. If they are sharp, then the entire image is more pleasant to view.
- Shoot when the sun's angle isn't straight overhead and harsh. Morning and early evening light are much more pleasant and reveal more of the subject's texture.
- Remember that many compact digital cameras have a lag time between the depressing of the shutter-release button and the actual release of the shutter. Work around this unique challenge by practicing on moving subjects and anticipating the action.
- Another approach, if you have burst mode, is to simply hold down the shutter-release button and take a series of shots. With luck, you'll have captured the action you wanted.
- Take advantage of the optical zoom capabilities of your compact digital camera but IGNORE the digital zoom feature which merely enlarges pixels - turning them into unsightly "boulders."
- Don't use flash. If you're far from your subject, the flash won't be of any use. If you're too close to your subject, you risk startling it and being injured yourself.
- Don't feel compelled to have your subject fill your frame. Instead ,include components of the animal's habitat thereby adding another layer of interest to the story your photograph will tell.
- If possible, select your shutter speed manually rather than using automatic mode. You'll want to be flexible. A running herd shot with a slower shutter speed made while panning produces breathtaking results. You'll want to use a tripod for this.
- Experiment with depth-of-field. An equally powerful statement can be made using a deep depth-of-focus as with a short depth-of-focus. It's entirely dependent on what elements you've framed in your foreground, midground and background.
- Animals are not unlike high-energy toddlers…neither stay in one place for very long so be prepared. Never chase them but move cautiously, slowly and smoothly.
- ALWAYS stay the recommended distance from any wildlife especially when trying to capture them with your camera.
- Become familiar with the habits of different species. Enrich your understanding of what they are doing and where you might look for them.
- Try to be level with the critter. This may require a level of athleticism, particularly if you're photographing a centipede. Remember, dirt is your pal!
- Go outside on "bad" weather days. Some of the most interesting wildlife photography images are captured during inclement weather.
Hopefully these tips will help you with your chosen photography field. They are by no means the be all and end all but just a little pointer to help you on your way to becoming a better wildlife photographer.