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Wildlife Photography

A wildlife photographer faces many unique and interesting challenges compared to, say, a portrait photographer or wedding photographer. The uninitiated may have a perception of the photographer as someone who spends lots of time worrying about light readings and takes hours composing the perfect shot; wildlife photography is probably a complete polar opposite to this pre-conception. When you are photographing wildlife you must be a quick draw photographer, always ready on the shutter release for when the opportunity arises to take a shot. Fortunately gone are the days of the manual focus so you can rely on autofocus for many shots allowing you more of a degree of flexibility however even autofocus cannot help save the unprepared wildlife photographer. Wildlife photography is all about the action; eagles catching prey, stags rutting, and other things that require you to have a fairly good reactions to get a good shot, otherwise you'll miss that crucial moment and your shots will be mediocre at best.

To be a successful wildlife photographer you must have an intimate knowledge of two things, your equipment and wildlife (of course). When working with your camera and lenses adjusting them should become second nature; you must know when to adjust certain things almost as an automatic reflex to get the best shots and you must not be looking at your camera while you do so otherwise you may miss that one dramatic shot. The same applies to focussing your lenses; there will be times when manual focus will be advantageous when compared to auto focus in wildlife photography so you should be prepared and know exactly what to do to focus instantly. It is recommended that you take a few trips with your camera and lenses to get to know them intimately before attempting any serious wildlife photography; you will benefit from this in the long run. If you are pursing a certain quarry for that one elusive picture then you will also need a working knowledge of the wildlife and terrain in which you are working. Wildlife photography often involves very long periods of waiting and stalking, followed by a very short flurry of activity, if you do not have the patience to sit and wait for your subject to appear then wildlife photography is probably not for you. The things a wildlife photographer must go through in order to get that perfect shot are nothing short of mind-boggling at times, however this makes the experience all the more rewarding and the photographs you are left with at the end all the more treasured.

Practice, practice, practice (panning). A lot of photographs that you will take of animals will be of them moving in some way, shape or form, so it is important that you have your panning technique down to a fine art before attempting wildlife photography. In certain situations (photographing birds in the nest or animals at rest for instance) panning will not be needed, however it is a useful skill to have, should your subject suddenly decide to leave the perch and take flight you will be able to track and pan with them and continue shooting. When panning you should always remember to continue panning after you have taken the photographs you desire, this will prevent any jerking of equipment that could force you to end up with a blurry image. Remember that when searching for your subject through your lens as a wildlife photographer you have a very narrow field of view so it may at times be difficult to locate your subject, unfortunately there is no easy way to overcome this problem other than by more practice.

Wildlife photography can be one of the most rewarding experiences for a DSLR owner. The focus of wildlife photography should be to document behaviour, if you photograph animals simply as they sit and stare at you your pictures will appear to lack life and seem very mediocre. Animal behaviour tells a story and places your subject in context; always keep this in mind when photographing wildlife.


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