One of the great aspects of visiting remote destinations is the opportunity to observe wildlife in their natural habitat. And, while it may be tempting to pause and take a photo or two, it's best to do so prepared. Below, a few tips on ensuring the safety of both yourself and the wildlife you come across, when taking photographs:
- Be Patient
- When you're taking pictures of wild animals, you have to work on their terms. Do not approach them; instead, wait for them to come into view. Too much movement on your part might make the animals run away.
- Use a Long Lens
- Keeping your distance is the best way to photograph wildlife, so as not to spook them; using a long lens offers the opportunity to take incredible photos from several yards away.
- Do Your Research
- Learn as much as you can about the environment and the animals that inhabit the area where you'll be taking photographs. In particular, it would be wise to learn how the local wildlife display threatening gestures, so you'll know if they're feeling unsafe.
- Watch Your Step
- If you're on unsteady terrain, never move when holding your camera at eye level. It's a habit photographers often build when taking pictures indoors, or on flat surfaces, but it can be very unsafe when walking along rocks, roots, or otherwise jagged ground.
In general, photographing wildlife utilizes an entirely different skill set than other forms of photography. The animals aren't likely to pose for you, and you can't direct them the way you would a model. This makes wildlife photography more similar to photojournalism: you're looking for a moment, not creating it. This means you have to hone your observational skills, and have a strong knowledge of photography basics:
- Consider Your Shutter Speed
- Wildlife photography is often about action and movement, and, while both long and short shutter speeds capture movement, the effect of each is dramatically different. Longer shutter speeds will create a blurring effect, which works well for pictures of animals bounding across a landscape. Shorter shutter speeds, however, can freeze a motion, creating dramatic images of animals jumping or leaping in mid-air.
- Pay Attention to Light
- The best time of day to shoot outside is during the hours after sunrise and before sunset. When the sun is low in the sky, it creates a glowing, lighting effect that makes images shine. When the sun is high in the sky, on the other hand, it can make your photos look flat. Play around with different lighting, and shoot first thing in the morning or in the early evening whenever possible.
- Focus on Variety
- Although your long lens will give you the chance to take up-close pictures from a distance, don't forget to take some shots from other perspectives. Since you're photographing these creatures in the wild, take advantage of the beautiful surroundings in order to frame the subject of your image. And don't focus on just individual animals; any pictures you can take of them interacting with each other will be special.