Thursday, June 23, 2016

The 'Big 5' tips for great wildlife photography

In recent years, wildlife photography has seen a massive growth in popularity. DLSR cameras are now readily available, reasonably priced and user-friendly. However, as ‘easy’ as cameras are to use these days, we’ve all had those moments when you take a photo of something beautiful and the result just isn’t what you imagined or doesn’t capture the essence of what you were photographing. It’s frustrating and can be a little disheartening. That’s why we decided to chat to wildlife photographer and Rhino River Lodge regular, Heidi Watson.

Heidi has always had a fascination with wildlife and the bush in general, from behaviours of animals to the interactions between them. Like many South Africans, her interest in wildlife photography was sparked on her first day trip into Kruger National Park. Combine that obsession with the tools to capture those memories and interactions, and the rest is history.

We asked Heidi to share a few tips on how to take better photos while on safari.

male-lion
Copyright Heidi Watson

1. Invest in good lenses
I would have to say invest in your lenses – good quality glass is key. Next, a minimum focal length of 200-300mm. If you are birding, the longer the focal length the better for these mostly shy creatures (400mm and longer) I would say a 70-200 f2.8 (depending on budget) and then something on the wider side like a 24-70mm, and if you wish to go longer than anything over 200mm, it should be a prime lens (which has no zoom capabilities but is a superior lens generally).
At the end of the day I believe you should use and invest in whatever works for you personally. Start with the basics and build from there, not everyone can afford the “pro” equipment from the get go.

bird-wildlife-photography
Copyright Heidi Watson

2. Experience is the most important thing when it comes to wildlife photography
Get out there, and practise! Learn as much as you can about your subjects and, of course, be patient.

dirty-lion-wildlife-photography
Copyright Heidi Watson

3. Tell a story with your photos
Capturing the soul of an animal in a photograph isn’t easy, but for me that’s what makes a great photo. An attempt at capturing a moment that cannot be recreated by another.

giraffe-moment-wildlife-photography
Copyright Heidi Watson

4. Be considerate of the animals
The topic of flashes is highly debatable, however used correctly they can be effective. This is done with offset brackets and cables to trigger the flash so that it does not flash directly into the subject’s eyes. I do however disagree whole heartedly on using pop up flashes. The other big issue for me is ethics, for example don’t antagonise the wildlife to get a reaction from the animals you are photographing.

wildlife-photography
Copyright Heidi Watson

5. Spend time, not money
My main advice would be, don’t follow the fads. Rather spend money on going places. The camera is just a tool; you are what makes the photo speak a 1,000 words. Work on your skills rather than buying the latest and greatest equipment. After all, what use is a bag full of gear when you have nothing to photograph? And lastly, see the world for more then what it is at that moment.

giraffe-herd-wildlife-photography

To see more of Heidi’s beautiful photographs and get inspired for your next safari, visit her Facebook page.

Originally published on Africa Geographic.


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