835 A Touchy Subject

Chris discusses ethics in wildlife photography and how there’s now a proposal for Exif data that deals exactly with that: what was the stress level of the animal, how much manipulation was taking place during the shoot, and much more. Your opinion? Discuss it in the Slack on channel #genre-wildlife.

Special guest on today’s episode is mad scientist photographer Don Komarechka, who tells us about his experiments with snowflakes, freezing soap bubbles and UV photography.

Photo by Trevor Cole

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Photo tours with Chris Marquardt:
» May 2017: Svalbard — Arctic (sold out)
» Oct 2017: Bhutan — The Happiness Kingdom (only 1 spot open)
» May 2018: New York Tilt-Shift
» Aug 2018: Ireland — Giant's Causeway
» Sep 2018: Norway — Lofoten Fantastic Fjords
» Oct 2018: Morocco
» all photo tours

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Bird Photography Tips for Beginners

The colour and texture of birds’ plumage makes them fascinating subjects for photography, made all the more exciting by their fleeting and elusive nature. With a lot of patience and practice, and the help of these tips, you’ll soon be on your way to making memorable photographs of our feathered friends.

Roseate Spoonbills in Flight by Anne McKinnell

Equipment

To capture the best bird photography, the most important thing you’ll need is a lens with a very long focal length. How long, exactly? Generally, the longer the better for maximum magnification. But keep in mind that lenses get remarkably heavy – if you’re hiking up a mountain, it might not be practical to carry an extreme telephoto lens, which can weigh in at over ten pounds.

A 70-300mm zoom lens is one of my favourites because it is very versatile and some of them are fairly lightweight. But you’ll get a sharper image with a fixed focal length lens. I recommend trying out a 300mm or 400mm prime lens.

The extra weight of a long lens will increase the likelihood of hand shake blur, which will then be magnified by the distance between you and your subject. If you’re working with a heavy lens, a tripod or monopod will be a great benefit for taking the weight of the lens.

Great Blue Heron by Anne McKinnell

If you want the increased flexibility you’ll get by not using a tripod or monopod, be sure to use a very fast shutter speed to compensate for the hand shake blur.

Camera Settings

Exposure

When photographing birds, using shutter priority mode and a fast shutter speed will ensure you are ready for any action that might happen, even if the bird is standing still at the moment. You never know when it will take flight and you want to be ready when that happens.

Using a wide aperture like f/2.8 or f/4 will give you a shallow depth of field, which helps to isolate the bird from its background and direct attention to its shape and colour.

When you want to have total control over the shutter speed and aperture, use manual mode and set the ISO to auto. That way, the camera will decide which ISO is the best to balance the exposure.

If you have a colourful sky, one option to try is to expose for the sky and allow the bird or birds to become silhouettes.

Seagull In Flight at Sunset by Anne McKinnell

Focus

How you focus on your subjects will depend on which approach you’re taking, as well as what equipment you have. Some lenses and some camera bodies auto focus faster, and much more accurately than others, so some experimentation is needed to get a sense of how quickly your auto focus motor moves.

Birds are moving subjects, so if you do use auto focus, change it to the “continuous focus” mode (usually called AF-C or AI Servo) which tracks motion. However, you might find that you get better results by learning to focus manually.

There should be an AF/MF switch on your camera and/or lens. If you switch it to MF (manual focus), you can turn the focus ring on your lens to adjust it by hand. This is fairly easy when your subject is still, but it takes a lot of practice to be able to do this quickly enough to lock in on a moving subject.

Juvenile Bald Eagle flying by Anne McKinnell

One method is to set up a perch (such as a bird feeder), with your camera on a tripod, and pre-frame and pre-focus your shot where the bird will be. When it lands, you just have to hit the shutter. There will be no focusing delay, so you can get the exact moment you have been waiting for.

Getting the Shot

Timing and Location

Birds are very active in the spring – the ground softens, plants and seeds starting coming out, and bugs are everywhere. They finally get the feast they’ve been struggling to find all winter. Similarly, in autumn they are avidly gathering food before the frost sets in. Both of these seasons are the best for finding birds near the ground – and whatever the time of year, early mornings and sunny days will draw the most action.

American White Pelicans at the Salton Sea, California, by Anne McKinnell

You might get lucky walking along a forest path, making photos of birds as you see them, but because birds see us as predators they will usually flee at the sound of our footsteps.

Instead, you may have better luck by finding a location birds enjoy, hiding yourself, and waiting. This is where the patience comes in to play! The better you hide yourself, the safer they will feel coming near you. Tuck yourself in next to a tree or bush, or hide behind a blind to camouflage yourself, and try to stay as still and quiet as possible.

One of the best places to start photographing birds might be your own backyard. Keep your camera handy with the right lens and camera settings for bird photography so that when one lands in your yard, you’re ready.

Female Sooty Grouse by Anne McKinnell

You can also seek them out in their natural habitats such as local forests, waterways, and beaches. You can find exotic and interesting species by visiting zoos, bird sanctuaries, and humane societies, or you can take a trip to a nearby national park or nature preserve. Birds that live in areas with more frequent human visitors will likely be less skittish and camera-shy.

Composition

Take care not to neglect your background. It should be clean and simple. Too much clutter will distract attention from the subject itself. Use your perspective and point of view to remove unwanted background objects from the frame, and choose a large aperture to blur them out.

Tips for the Field

  • The better your camouflage, the more likely the birds will come near you. Cover your camera with a green or brown sweater to mask its strange appearance.
  • Wear neutral clothing and avoid bright colours.
  • Make sure to remove or cover all reflective objects on and around you, including your equipment, camera bag, cell phone, and any jewelry you might be wearing.
  • If you do find yourself needing to get closer to a bird, keep a low profile. Don’t approach them directly, but rather move toward them in a zig-zag pattern. Keep very quiet and avoid making quick movements and startling them.
  • Birds often choose favourite perches. Even if it flutters off before you can get your shot, if you wait silently for a few minutes, it may come back.
  • Birds are easily startled, so a beeping camera can frighten them away. Turn off any beeps your camera might make.
    The same goes for flash – turn it off or your bird will be startled by your first shot and quickly leave.

Do you have any other bird photography tips you’d like to add to this list? Please share in the comments below.

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5 Most Common Mistakes in Wildlife Photography – and How to Avoid Them

Animals, especially wild ones, make such beautiful subjects that we cannot resist turning our cameras on them to capture images of these majestic creatures in their natural state.

Unlike a landscape, creatures are constantly in motion, and unlike most people, they can be pretty uncooperative when it comes to getting their picture taken. This can make for a lot of botched pictures. Here are a few tips on how to avoid some of the common pitfalls of wildlife photography.

1. A Tiny Subject

Three Brown Pelicans by Anne McKinnell

It’s tough to approach a wild animal – they are easily spooked. Because of this, many wildlife photos have more wilderness than wildlife, with the animal becoming a tiny speck in its environment. This can be effective in some situations, but for the most part you want the animal to be large enough in the frame to see the detail in its eyes. This is where a good telephoto lens can really help you out. Using a long focal length (over 200mm) will allow you to keep your distance while still filling the frame.

2. Blurry Image

Blur comes in many forms. Your entire image could be blurry due to camera shake; a problem which is magnified by the longer focal lengths needed for wildlife photography.

In landscape photography, using a tripod is a good technique to prevent camera shake, but a tripod is not as practical when photographing wildlife. Wildlife photography requires a more active shooting style – you’ll be moving around constantly – so unless you are using a lens that is too big to hold comfortably, forget the tripod. Also, because the animals are always in motion, you’ll need a fast shutter speed anyway. That leads me to the first method to combat camera shake blur: using a very fast shutter speed.

In landscape photography, you normally use a shutter speed that is at least 1/focal length of your lens. But usually that isn’t going to be fast enough when photographing wildlife because the animals are always in motion (even when they appear to be standing still). To avoid disappointment, you’ll need to use a much faster shutter speed to freeze both your own motion and the motion of the animal.

Here is my rule of thumb when photographing wildlife: if the animal appears to be still, use a shutter speed of 1/500th of a second. If the animal is moving, you’ll have to adjust the shutter speed based on how fast they are moving. I suggest a minimum of 1/1,000th of a second, or faster if the animal is moving faster.

Sleeping Steller Sea Lion by Anne McKinnell

Using a lens with image stabilization will also help prevent camera shake blur. A lens with a wide maximum aperture, say f/2.8 or even f/4, will let more light in, allowing you to use a faster shutter speed. Likewise, a camera with low noise at high ISOs will let you turn up the sensitivity. All of these options will enable you to make faster exposures with better results.

Another type of blur is focus blur. This results from your camera being unable to focus, probably because your subject is moving and the AF motor gets confused. Some cameras and lenses have superior auto focus systems to others, but regardless of what you have, you can get the most out of it by setting it to continuous focus mode, usually called AF-C (Nikon) or AI Servo (Canon). This setting will track the subject’s movement in the frame and focus on it more quickly and accurately.

3. The Missed Moment

We’ve all been there. You see the perfect shot, frame it, and hit the shutter. But by the time the camera focuses and the exposure is made, the animal has moved and all you end up with is the second after the perfect shot.

There are two ways to avoid this heartbreak:

Anticipation

This is a skill that can only come with practice and a keen eye. If you can learn to see when the perfect moment is about to happen, rather than when it is happenning, you can hit the shutter right before the peak moment and cause the camera to snap at just the right time.

Orca by Anne McKinnell

Continuous Shooting

When animals are in motion, you’ll get the best chance at a good result by using continuous shooting mode (also called “drive mode” or “burst mode”). With this, you can take several images per second and choose the most successful.

Higher-end DSLRs and mirrorless cameras will have a much faster maximum shooting speed, but no matter which camera you have, there are a few things that will help get the highest continuous shooting rate.

One is a fast memory card – both SD (standard digital) and CF (compact flash) cards have a certain speed that they operate at, and a faster card will make sure that your camera doesn’t get bogged down trying to save the images.

The other is a fully-charged battery – as the juice drains, the camera can become sluggish, so it’s a good idea to keep an extra battery or two in your camera bag. For ultimate performance, you can buy a battery grip that fits on your camera. This holds two batteries at the same time for maximum speed.

4. Where Is Everyone???

Sometimes wild animals can be hard to find, and they’re not always where you want them to be. Before you can photograph them, you have to learn a few things about how to find them.

Know your animals

What types of animals live around you? Before you go out shooting, find out who they are, what they eat, when they sleep, and where they like to relax in between. If you’re photographing birds, research which ones are to be found in your area at which times of year. It’s also important to know how animals might react if, and when, they feel threatened – will they fight, or flee?

American Green Tree Frog by Anne McKinnell

Know the season

Some animals will be much more active at different times of year – particularly during autumn, as they rummage up enough food for winter, and in the spring when some animals come out of hibernation.

Camp out

I don’t mean overnight (unless you’re into that), but it’s often a very effective practice to find a popular area – probably somewhere with a source of water, food, shade or shelter – where animals like to congregate. Set your camera up on a tripod nearby, and disguise yourself among some trees or brush (some photographers go so far as to buy ,or build, a blind to hide their presence).

Be patient

Animals work on their own schedule, so don’t try to fit a shooting session in between other appointments. Great photos take time, and you must allow nature to unfold at its own pace. Many animals are easily frightened, so being quiet, still, and inconspicuous will help put them at ease.

5. Animal Attack!

We don’t call it “wildlife” for nothing – the biggest mistake you can make is accidentally getting mauled. Animals are not adjusted to polite society, and can be pretty rough customers if you catch them at the wrong time, or in the wrong way. They spend most of their waking lives foraging for food, and a spat over a meal can turn ugly, fast. Never get in the way of lunch, unless you want to take its place.

Don’t approach a wild animal directly, and if they see you, avoid looking them in the eye. This is usually a sign of aggression. If you need to get closer, keep low and move in a broad zig-zag pattern to avoid frightening the animal.

Baby Aligator by Anne McKinnell

Be aware of when mating season (or “running season”) is for the type of animal you’ll be photographing. Male mammals are full of testosterone at this time of year, and can be aggressive, violent, and very dangerous. Avoid photographing at these times. Similarly, find out when animals are likely to be giving birth and raising their young. We all know how risky it can be to get in between a mama bear and her cubs.

Whenever you’re dealing with wildlife, always remember that any creature can be dangerous when provoked, and it’s very important to treat animals and their habitat with the utmost care and respect.

For more tips on wildlife photography try these articles:

The post 5 Most Common Mistakes in Wildlife Photography – and How to Avoid Them by appeared first on Digital Photography School.

Four Tips for Better Wildlife Photography

Today Wildlife photographer Joe Decker from Photocrati and www.joedecker.net. shares some tips for those wanting to improve their Wildlife Photography.

Wildlife photography is one of the most challenging yet rewarding forms of nature photography. The best wildlife images create a powerful emotional connection between the viewer and the animal, but success requires planning, timing, and technique. Here are a few tips for getting started:

polar-bear.jpg

1. Keep Shooting

Expect to burn through a lot of memory cards shooting wildlife. While you may occasionally be able to presage the decisive moment in a wildlife shot, more often than not it will

be difficult to know exactly when the body position, the facial expression, and the composition of the image in front of you will all come together as an animal is in motion. Continuous shooting, extra batteries and many, fast memory cards will improve your odds of getting an effective image. If I find that only one in a couple dozen of my landscape images are “good” by my own criteria, that ratio might be more like “one in a few hundred” shots for wildlife, the first time I photographed polar bears I shot two cards full of images in less than an hour, and netted three portfolio images.

2. The Eye Has It

Like human portraits, wildlife portraits gain life by making a connection between the viewer and the animal, and as with humans, the window to that connection is the eye. When the practical needs of nature photography (supertelephoto lenses, wide apertures) leave the photographer with a very narrow depth of field it is almost always essential that the eye, if nothing else, be in focus. Our brains are almost hardwired to notice faces and to look for the eyes, if the eyes aren’t sharp in the primary subject of your photograph, most times, just won’t work. Bonus tip: A tiny bit of fill light from a flash (maybe 1.5 or more stops down under the “correct” fill flash exposure) can help create effective catch light in the eye to enhance this effect.

bird-1.jpg

3. Understand Your Subject

With wildlife, particularly big game, learn a bit about your subject beforehand for the safety of

the animals, for your own safety, and for better photographs. Getting too close to many animals, particularly birds, to abandon their eggs or nest entirely. Your own safety is important too, in photographing polar bears from a Zodiac in Svalbard I knew that polar bears would not usually jump out into the water to attack, and working with a telephoto they mostly seemed uninterested in my presence. However, when one animal came to the shore and started bobbing it’s head up and down, I knew it was time to be out of there in a moment, this friendly looking gesture is the polar bears way of figuring out how far we are away. Spending time learning about your subject isn’t just about safety, either. The colorful puffins I photographed in the Westfjords of Iceland, I learned through research, are a lot more docile. While there were excellent shooting opportunities even in midday, near midnight (at dusk during that trip), it was easily possible to work within arm’s length of the birds, and I wouldn’t have known that without a little study beforehand.

bird-2.jpg

4. Movement, Facing and Space

Another lesson from human portraiture we can use in wildlife photography is the idea of composing based on facing and direction. In general photographs

of moving animals are best composed giving more room in front of the animal’s movement than in back. Similarly, when an animal is looking to one side or another in a photograph, providing room in the direction the animal is looking usually results in a more effective image. If you can show what the animal is looking at (particularly if that too is interesting), that can be even more effective.

Joe Decker is a photography writer for Photocrati a photographer and photography teacher. You can see more of his nature photography at www.joedecker.net.

Post originally from: Digital Photography Tips.

Check out our more Photography Tips at Photography Tips for Beginners, Portrait Photography Tips and Wedding Photography Tips.

Four Tips for Better Wildlife Photography


Photography in the wild

Difficult and fascinating at the same time, wildlife photography spices up one’s professional life. It involves a lot of traveling and it keeps you away in wilderness for very long periods of time. Wildlife photography serves for documentaries in magazines and corresponds to what is generally called photojournalism. They are the kind you’ll see on the cover and in the pages of National Geographic Magazine. Animals in action are the subjects of wildlife photography.

Animals are captured while eating, hunting, playing, mating or in flight. The equipment required for such photo shooting is specialized since one has to rely on a very quick shutter speed and use features that freeze the animal in motion and blur the background. These effects can only be achieved with the use of wide apertures as compared to landscape photography that relies on small apertures. Depending on the distance from the shot, telephoto lenses will be necessary.

Telephoto lenses can only be used with tripods. The longer the lens, the heavier the camera, which makes it difficult to hold and shoot well. Therefore, wildlife photography relies on quite a number of equipments for the various tasks. Do not overlook the possibility or the necessity to camouflage the camera by using blinds. When we come to think about all these details, it seems like a very complex and busy occupation, but it is one that gives great joys.

Wildlife photography does not depend on weather or location. There is a huge diversity of subjects, and you could be photographing flies or polar bears with about the same dedication. Wildlife photography is for those that know their profession well, and who love adventure. With dangerous, erratic and elusive subjects to capture, the photographer’s job is very difficult.

Results make any effort worthy, and most professionals will confirm this to you. Unfortunately, there have been cases when photographers have showed almost no consideration for the environment and precarious ecosystems when following animals in the wild. No matter how captivating it may be, we owe nature respect and gratitude. The situation and natural aspects are the most important, and we should not risk any of these for the sake of a picture.

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