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Wildlife

There are few things as excited as capturing a unique wildlife shot. It brings an extraordinary sense of achievement and provides the inspiration to keep improving your technique.

As with most genres, practice is key in wildlife photography. With so many different variables to consider capturing an image is extremely difficult, getting the perfect shot without practice is more often a result of luck and good fortune than skill. My advice is to take your camera out frequently, experiment with different techniques, and learn from your experiences. Enjoy the process and challenge yourself, you will capture some golden moments along the way. Wildlife photography is dynamic in that the subject is almost always moving, is about to move, you are moving, or you need to be ready to move.


Select shutter priority mode so that you control the shutter speed while the camera automatically adjusts the aperture for proper exposure. It’s important to choose a fast shutter speed to freeze the action and get a clear image, even a slightly slower shutter speed will ruin an otherwise perfect composition. Of course, setting the shutter speed too fast will make your picture darker and the light will be lost. For land animals, I recommend starting with a minimum of 1/500th of a second and adjust as necessary based on the speed of your subject. In speed priority mode, the camera adjusts the aperture for proper exposure, but it's important to also consider the ISO setting. Use a low ISO (such as 100 or 200) to maintain image quality and reduce noise. Increase the ISO if you need a faster shutter speed or when shooting in low-light conditions. Do not leave the camera in ISO auto as it will usually increase the ISO too much which will introduce grain into your photo.


Wildlife is constantly moving, so your focal point will change rapidly. It’s crucial to use the continuous autofocus (AF-C) mode to track your subject. This allows the camera to adjust focus continuously as the animal moves, ensuring sharp images. Depending on your camera, this may be a difficult setting to engage. Do this deliberately as you prepare for your shot, it will be too difficult to engage this setting under pressure in the heat of the moment.


Using burst mode or continuous shooting may feel like cheating, and while I don’t advocate a “spray and pray” approach to photography. Continuous shooting mode is valuable for capturing multiple frames in quick succession, especially since you really don’t know what is going to happen next. Many times, something else is going on outside the scope of the viewfinder that changes the composition. As you follow your subject using continuous auto-focus and burst modes, you will increase your chances of capturing more than one subject or an interaction that was previously out of frame.


While freezing the motion is important, don't forget about composition. Compose your shot carefully, keeping in mind the rule of thirds and utilizing the available surroundings to create visually appealing images. Look for interesting angles, leading lines, and natural frames to enhance your compositions. Wildlife photography requires patience and observation. If you have the opportunity, take the time to study your subject's behavior and anticipate their actions. This will help you position yourself for the best shots and capture unique moments. Patience may mean waiting and repositioning; I like to call this “next timing”. As in “Next time, I need to be here early so the sun is behind me.” Or “Next time, I will be shooting from over there where I’ll have the lake to frame the photo.”


In wildlife photography and its so much of composition is about you being in the right location, which means getting into position without disturbing the subject. To get closer to wildlife, it's essential to be quiet and move slowly. Animals can be easily startled, so practice stealth and minimize sudden movements. It's essential to understand the behavior and habitats of the animals you are photographing. Research and learn about their patterns, movements, and preferred environments. This knowledge will help you anticipate their actions and capture more engaging images.


As always light plays a crucial role in wildlife photography. Ideally, shoot during the golden hours - early morning or late afternoon - when the light is soft and warm. Fortunately, most members of the animal kingdom enjoy the golden hours so your opportunities for action increase.




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