Posts Tagged ‘Wildlife’

The Wait: A beautiful ode to patience and wildlife photography

04 Jan

Michel D’Oultremont is one of the brightest rising stars in the world of wildlife photography, and that’s not just our opinion—at just 22-years-old, he was named ‘Rising Star’ by the Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition. His work very much speaks for itself, but his work ethic is what’s turned the most heads, thanks to this intense short film by Contra titled The Wait.

The Wait follows Michel on a trip to Romania, where he went searching for the ‘perfect’ photo of the bison recently reintroduced to the Carpathian mountains.

Throughout the film, Michel explains his evolution as a wildlife photographer: how he began by taking pictures that were very “documentary” style before backing away to allow more breathing room and compositional space between himself and the animals he was capturing.

“I tried to put more importance on the environment or the play of light, rather than the animal itself,” he explains in the video. “I’d prefer to take a picture of a common bird in a beautiful environment…” That’s how he captures photos like the ones he shared with DPReview below. Environmental shots that are about so much more than their primary subject; photos that show the scene as it was.

“I do not cheat in my pictures, no flash, no post-treatment after,” he told me over email. “I do not remove any items and add none.”

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But the short film is titled Wait, after all, so it doesn’t take long for Michel to arrive at his main subject. As he hunkers down for his week-long wait in the Carpathian mountains, he begins to speak of patience, one of the most challenging skills one must develop to capture powerful wildlife photography.

“Patience is one of the most important things to have. Without patience it’s not possible to see the animals,” he narrates. “If half an hour, an hour passes and you’re fed up and want to leave the hide, it’s just not going to work. Generally, you’ve got to be in place for [at least] a few hours to be forgotten by nature.”

For many of his shots, it often takes a week or a week and a half of waiting, watching, and learning the environment before he captures the photograph he’s after. Which is, in the end, about how long it took to finally capture the bison on camera:

To see the rest of the bison photos he captured while in the Carpathians, or if you’re just in need of inspiration this Thursday, definitely check out the full short film at the top. It’s one of the more poignant and accurate descriptions of the kind of love-of-nature and love-of-photography that it takes to stand out as a wildlife photographer these days.

And if you enjoy the film, be sure to visit Michel’s website, like his Facebook page, and give him a follow on Instagram for lots more.

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Struggling owl takes home top prize in 2017 Comedy Wildlife Photography Awards

19 Dec

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After showing off 40 chuckle-inducing finalists early last week, the 2017 Comedy Wildlife Photography Awards have revealed their overall winners in each category. The results were unveiled last Thursday, but a Monday evening seems like the best possible time to share some photos that’ll make you smile.

The overall winner is a photo of an owl struggling to stay on a branch, part of a sequence of four shots by photographer Tibor Kercz that he aptly titled “Help.” Meanwhile, the category prizes—On the Land, In the Air, and Under the Sea—went to Andrea Zampatti, John Threlfall, and Troy Mayne, respectively. You can see all 7 winning photos in the gallery above.

Of course, these 7 are far from the only images worth a laugh. So in addition to naming its winners, the CWPAs also named 10 Highly Commended images, which we’ve included in the gallery below. You’re welcome…

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In addition to making us smile once a year, The Comedy Wildlife Photography Awards also works with The Born Free Foundation, which “works locally, nationally and internationally to end wild animal cruelty and suffering, and protect threatened wildlife.” To that end, they’ve put together a photo book of comical photos submitted to the CWPAs over the years, which helps to raise funds for the Foundation.

If you like what you see above, consider purchasing the book and supporting the Foundation. And if you want to learn more about the Comedy Wildlife Photography Awards head over to the CWPA website where you’ll find all of the finalists and winners from the past three years—a little inspiration for your entry to next year’s competition, perhaps?

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Our favorite finalists from the Comedy Wildlife Photography Awards 2017

13 Dec

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Later this week, on December 14th, the Comedy Wildlife Photography Awards will reveal the winning photos for 2017, each chosen from a pool of 40 finalists revealed earlier this month. The 40 images showcase fun and funny scenes captured by wildlife photographers around the globe: singing elephant seals, a laughing mouse, macaques on a motorbike, and more.

More than 3,500 images were submitted to the competition this year.

The Comedy Wildlife Photography Awards goes by the tagline “conservation through competition,” providing photographers with an lighthearted contest through which they can share fun photos of wildlife while helping raise conservation awareness.

You can see our favorite finalists in the gallery above, then head over to the contest’s website to see all 40, view a gallery of last year’s wildlife comedy finalists, or check out the 2015 and 2016 winners.

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Instagram starts warning users about wildlife abuse when they search certain hashtags

07 Dec

Instagram has announced a new wildlife protection measure following a New York Times report on how some traffickers are using the platform as part of the illicit animal trade. In a blog post published earlier this week, Instagram said that it will start presenting a content advisory screen to users who search for hashtags that are, “associated with harmful behavior to animals or the environment.”

This advisory, shown below, links to both the posts and a page where additional information on the matter is provided. That page, which discusses both environmental considerations and wild animal interactions, further links to TRAFFIC, the World Wildlife Fund, and World Animal Protection agencies.

In addition to encouraging its users not to damage the environment in order to get the perfect shot, Instagram says:

We also encourage you to be mindful of your interactions with wild animals, and consider whether an animal has been smuggled, poached or abused for the sake of tourism. For example, be wary when paying for photo opportunities with exotic animals, as these photos and videos may put endangered animals at risk.

Users who come across a video or photo they believe to be violating Instagram’s guidelines on this matter are urged to report it. The company explicitly states that it does not allow endangered animals to be sold via its platform, nor does it allow content featuring animal abuse.

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Full Frame or APS-C for Wildlife Photography – Which is Best?

20 Nov

Choosing between a full frame or cropped sensor camera for wildlife photography can be a tough decision. Both options offer their own benefits, so choosing between the two can cause quite the headache. Lots of photographers have their opinions, but choosing what’s right for your own use will largely come down to your personal style of shooting. So let’s break it down.

FX full frame and APS-C - Full Frame or APS-C for Wildlife Photography - Which is Best?

The Basics

Most modern camera companies use either full frame or APS-C (crop) type sensors in their DSLR (and mirrorless) cameras. The former is often classed as the professional standard, with the sensor size being a close replica to that of a 35mm film negative.

APS-C on the other hand, is roughly two thirds the size of a full frame sensor, resulting in the field of view being multiplied by a factor of 1.5-1.6x that of a standard full frame model. These sensors feature mostly in the lower tiered offerings by camera companies, with the chips being less expensive to produce.

Full Frame or APS-C for Wildlife Photography - Which is Best?

Working with APS-C means you can travel lighter.

Crop Factor

For APS-C models one of the largest benefits for wildlife photographers is that of the additional crop factor. The 1.5-1.6x magnification of your optics can be hugely beneficial when working out in the field, trying to photograph small birds or distant wildlife.

The crop factor also allows you to get a similar angle of view with a far smaller lens, helping to reduce the gear you need to carry while still giving you great telephoto reach. This is something a lot of photographers find as a huge benefit, as they can minimize the size and weight of the gear they need to carry out into the field.

For example, a 70-200mm lens on a 1.5x crop-factor body gives you the equivalent of a 105-300mm lens. A perfect compact wildlife setup.

APS-c cameras crop factor can be a great benefit for wildlife photography - Full Frame or APS-C for Wildlife Photography - Which is Best?

APS-C cameras crop factor can be a great benefit for wildlife photography.

ISO Sensitivity

One of the large benefits of a full frame camera is that of better image quality when shooting at high ISO. The larger sensor means in the individual pixels (and light sensitive photo sites) are larger than those on an APS-C type camera. This means as a general rule they are more sensitive to light, allowing cleaner noise-free images at high ISO settings, something that is fabulous when trying to work and photograph wildlife in low light conditions.

Now with modern sensor advances, APS-C models of the past few years have come up leaps and bounds in terms of ISO performance – easily being useable to ISO 6,400. But, if low light usability is key for the subjects you’re working with, a full frame camera is still king.

Full Frame or APS-C for Wildlife Photography - Which is Best?

APS-C cameras can still make great results at a high ISO.

Depth of Field

When comparing that of full frame sensors with APS-C models, one extra thing to consider is the depth of field characteristics and how areas are rendered out of focus.

With the smaller sensor in APS-C models, they give the effect of having a larger depth of field at equivalent apertures when compared to a full frame camera. This means that if you are going after images that render clean bokeh and have a very restricted depth of field to isolate and direct your viewer’s attention to your subject, a full frame model will be better suited.

Full Frame or APS-C for Wildlife Photography - Which is Best?

Full frame cameras are great for shallow depth of field effects.

Of course, if you do a large amount of macro work and want to maximize the depth then an APS-C camera might be right up your alley.


In the past few years, technology has advanced in resolution steadily, with cameras being introduced that have high 36-42 megapixel sensors. For the most part, ultra high-res sensors have been used in the realms of advertising and commercial photography for years. But of course, now having been brought into DSLRs they offer photographers more flexibility.

The high resolutions models are mainly full frame sensors, as packing huge numbers of pixels onto small sensors can heavily impact their quality. The FX models that have high resolution offer a unique advantage, as they make the most of the benefits of full frame models, yet offer the ability to crop heavily to replicate the crop factor of those advanced APS-C DSLRs.

Often a disadvantage is that these high-resolution cameras are slower in terms of frames per second, due to internal data writing limitations. But this is advancing all the time, especially with new forms of storage media offering faster write times.


Full Frame or APS-C for Wildlife Photography - Which is Best?

High megapixel full frame cameras offer great all-around performance.

The full frame camera with a high-resolution sensor can be somewhat of a perfect compromise for those wanting the ISO performance and bokeh rendering benefits of full frame, combined with the ability to crop. Providing, of course, that they aren’t to hung up on needing blazing fast frame per second shooting rates.


One factor that always plays a part when looking to buy new gear is that of cost. Full frame bodies by their nature are more expensive, with the chips inside being harder to engineer and more expensive to produce. APS-C cameras are often found at lower price points, but this depends on the body design and extra features such as speed, construction, and technologies implemented.

Some full spec APS-C cameras are significantly more expensive than full frame models due to the advanced autofocus features, frame rates, and build quality.

So what to choose?

For wildlife photography, it largely depends on your target subjects.

If you love photographing birds and small creatures, a high-end APS-C body that combines the crop factor with speed will serve you well. The crop factor is also a huge benefit if you want to get a longer telephoto reach without having to shell out for ultra-expensive super telephoto lenses. Meaning you can have a small set up that offers a good compromise for most situations.

If you want to truly get the best performance and quality, full frame models are where to look. The high-resolution sensors and excellent low light performance make for great image quality. However, of course, you’ll also need to invest in the best optics to make the most of them.

These are both costly and a large burden to carry around. However, if you want the best quality imaginable that’s what it takes. For those starting out investing, an APS-C model would be my recommendation. Save your funds to buy decent quality lenses, as these will largely make more of a difference to your images than a single stop of ISO or a slightly higher resolution sensor.

The post Full Frame or APS-C for Wildlife Photography – Which is Best? by Tom Mason appeared first on Digital Photography School.

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Tips for Why and How to do Wildlife Photography at Eye-Level

18 Sep

Wildlife photography is all about creating a connection with the subject and with your audience. One of the key components of your wildlife images is how well they capture the audience’s attention. One of the most effective ways to do that is to try and get down and shoot at eye-level with the subject. Please note that eye-level need not necessarily mean ground-level always. You could have a subject on a tree, rock, etc., so it’s not always essential to be at the ground-level but being at eye-level really helps.

What’s the difference?

Let’s see what difference is in an image when you shot from eye-level of the subject.

Taken from a car.

Taken at eye level on the ground.

Purely from an attention grabbing perspective, this renders the background totally blurred thus restricting the number of points vying for attention. As is seen in the image above, the image when taken from eye-level helps in drawing attention directly to the bird. Why does this happen, though? What causes the background to blur out?

The background is affected

Often in my workshops and tours, I suggest people that they should ask “Why?” for all concepts and tips. For the eye-level approach to wildlife photography, I again ask, “Why does this result in getting a cleaner background?” The answer might be obvious to a lot of you but for those others who are just starting their journey as photographers, the following question might help.

Ever you ever searched for a tiny thing like an earring or a needle on the floor?

The obvious approach is to immediately get down to ground level and rest your head on the floor. But why does that help? It helps simply because by changing your perspective you change the distance between the subject and the background. The greater this distance, the greater the chance there is of the shallower depth of field coming into play and that of the subject standing out.

Take the images above for example. The following illustration will show the difference in terms of background for both..

Tips for Why and How to do Wildlife Photography at Eye-Level

In the illustration where the photographer is standing up, the background consists of the ground immediately behind the bird. The less the distance between subject and background, the lesser the blur of the background is achieved.

Where the photographer is lying down, the background is almost infinity (a significant distance away from the bird). The greater the distance between subject and background, the more blur of the background can be achieved.

With that rule understood, you will be able to apply it in the field that much better. Here are a few more examples of eye-level wildlife photography.

Tips for Why and How to do Wildlife Photography at Eye-Level

Tips for Why and How to do Wildlife Photography at Eye-Level

Tips for Why and How to do Wildlife Photography at Eye-Level

Tips for shooting wildlife photography at eye-level

Now that we have established the advantage of going to the eye-level of the subject, let’s take a look at a few ways to go about doing that.

Getting to the eye-level

#1 Get yourself flat on the ground

This is the easiest to do, as you just have to lie down, right? Well, I wish it was just that. If you are in a vehicle and are close enough to the subject, then try to get down on the ground with minimal to no noise and generally very slowly. Try and make moves only when the subject is looking away. Once you are flat on the ground, try not to make a lot of burst shots immediately. Let the subject get accustomed to you first.

#2 Get the vehicle at eye-level

Take a look at the image below. It is a pair of lions in the African savannah.

Tips for Why and How to do Wildlife Photography at Eye-Level

Quite often, wildlife photography is done in reserves or national parks, where getting down from the vehicle is not allowed. So what can you do in such scenarios? This is where your field-craft comes in handy. Know your subject and you will be able to predict its movement.

For example, take a scenario where you have a big cat walking on a road (they seem to like doing that don’t they?). You could either stop where you are and fire-off a few shots. OR you could take a moment to evaluate the animal’s potential path and wait at a location where the road is slightly lower than where you are currently situated. A lower elevation for the vehicle would ensure a better connection with the subject when it walks towards you. Take a look at the simple sketch below to give you an idea.

Tips for Why and How to do Wildlife Photography at Eye-Level

#3 Crawl

This one has to do mostly with shooting on the beach. If you are into shorebird photography quite often you will find yourself on a sandy beach because those are the areas where your subjects are found. It is generally not very easy to get up-close to these guys using your vehicle so you have to start crawling from a safe distance.

I have noticed that shorebirds allow you to get really close-up as long as you are willing to put in that effort to crawl and not rush in on them. Here is an example of the result of a 50-foot crawl.

Tips for Why and How to do Wildlife Photography at Eye-Level

Yes, get those elbow and knee guards ready because it isn’t the easiest thing to do. Especially if you are carrying a big lens around. A contraption like the ground pod helps a lot in this situation to push the gear easily.

#4 Standing up

Sometimes, when you are in a vehicle, getting to eye-level might simply mean standing up. Look at the following two images. Both clicked at the same spot, one while I was sitting down and the other when I decided to get up to eye-level.

Tips for Why and How to do Wildlife Photography at Eye-Level

Tips for Why and How to do Wildlife Photography at Eye-Level

It makes a world of a difference right? Now please remember that even when you are doing a simple thing like standing up, you need to be very cautious and slow in your approach. Wildlife does not like sudden movements, it spooks them.

Getting ready for eye-level

As with everything in photography, practice makes life much easier in the field, so here is my advice for the eye-level approach. Initially just try it without the camera. See if you can understand the mood of the subject. Remember, make no alarming or sudden movements and be as quiet and slow as possible.

Once you are able to do this with a certain degree of success, you are ready to then bring out the camera gear and give it a go. Remember, this is quite a lot like being a predator. You will not have a 100% success rate. Just make sure that when you succeed, you make full use of it. What I mean is, make sure that before you get down on the ground, you have chosen the spot well for a good background and you have taken into account the light on the subject.

So get out there, and practice and share your wildlife photography eye-level images.

The post Tips for Why and How to do Wildlife Photography at Eye-Level by Rahul Sachdev appeared first on Digital Photography School.

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5 Top Value Lenses for Getting Started in Wildlife Photography

12 Sep

Getting started in wildlife photography is one of the more expensive genres of the photo industry. The lenses and cameras that are often in the bags of pros are more often than not in the higher tier price brackets. However, to get started you don’t need to spend a fortune to gear up with some great lenses for wildlife photography.

Lenses are the thing to invest in when starting out in wildlife or as any photographer for that matter. The glass you purchase can stay with you for many years, while often cameras are updated far more regularly. Meaning, if you spend your money wisely you won’t have to outlay again.

wildlife photography lenses

Now of course as you gain more experience and want to invest it into your work, you might outgrow some gear or wish for more pro features. But when you’re getting started, the lenses I’ve listed below are a great base to build on and invest in, that will not only provide excellent quality results but also hold their value within your gear bag. These lenses will cover a range of shooting situations so you can capture the natural world in all manner of ways to really follow your creative vision.

1 – The Telephoto Zoom 70-200mm

Firstly, we are going to start with the telephoto zoom. For most wildlife photographers this is one of the most used lenses in their arsenal, offering flexibility to compose portraits of wildlife to more landscape style images to put your subjects in the environment.

5 Top Value Lenses for Getting Started in Wildlife Photography

The 70-200mm zoom is an excellent investment.

As an investment, the 70-200mm is a key lens to get hold of as it offers so much in the way of performance and flexibility. Most people will feel that 200mm is a little shot for wildlife, but with practice and development of your stalking skills, especially when paired with an APS-C camera it’s a great place to start.

The f/2.8 is the most coveted version due to its fast aperture for gorgeous bokeh (out of focus areas) as well as its autofocus speed. The f/2.8 version is a higher cost lens retailing new at around $ 2000 but secondhand (especially a slightly older version) can be had at excellent prices. If they are still a little out of the price range, think about the f/4 version. Smaller and lighter they are also a lot cheaper, still offering top performance for getting into wildlife photography.

5 Top Value Lenses for Getting Started in Wildlife Photography

The 70-200mm is perfect for working with largest animals.

2 – The Prime Option 300mm F/4

If you want something a little longer think about looking into a 300mm f/4 prime lens. These fixed focal length lenses don’t zoom, so you have to move your feet to get the composition correct. However, due to their nature as primes they have excellent optical performance, offering wonderful sharpness as well as a reasonably fast aperture for creating pleasing portraits with your of focus areas as well as working in less than perfect light.

5 Top Value Lenses for Getting Started in Wildlife Photography

300mm f/4 lens.

The 300mm f/4 is a lens that has been on the market for a long time now and both Nikon and Canon lenses can be easily found for an excellent price secondhand even from dealers with included warranties. The 300mm f/4 was the telephoto that I used when I became more serious with my photography and it helped me on the path to shooting professionally. So I can vouch for its excellent qualities.

wildlife photography lenses

3 – Ultra Telephoto Zoom 100-400mm

If prime lenses aren’t your thing then the 100-400mm (or the Nikon 80-400mm) might be a better fit for your style of shooting. The excellent range makes it a very versatile lens for wildlife photography, giving you the ability to switch from close portraits to environmental shots in an instant.

5 Top Value Lenses for Getting Started in Wildlife Photography

80-400mm Nikon lens.

Buying new gives you the best options for getting a top spec lens, with the latest iterations having excellent sharpness, autofocus and image stabilization, whilst older models are slightly weaker in all aspects. If you are looking to invest in one of these I’d recommend trying to get hold of the latest model as it will last you a long time and really provide you with a top lens for getting some great wildlife images.

I would certainly recommend these as name brand lenses over third party manufacturers, as they are far better optically engineered. Often when starting out with wildlife photography, some people go for the longest superzoom they can find like the 150-600mm or 50-500mm. But these suffer from optical quality and often lead to frustrating results.

5 Top Value Lenses for Getting Started in Wildlife Photography

The 80-400mm is a great compact wildlife photography lens for travel.

4 – Wide Angle 10-20mm

When shooting wildlife photography, going wide a great way to create far more interesting images than super telephoto shots. Of course, as that isn’t always an option, spending a vast amount of money on a super wide especially if you are not focused on shooting landscapes as well can be overkill.

5 Top Value Lenses for Getting Started in Wildlife Photography

Canon 10-18mm lens.

Luckily both Nikon and Canon have excellent low-cost APS-C wide angle lenses that really offer great performance and functionality at decent prices. The new Nikon 10-20mm and the Canon 10-18mm are perfect candidates for wide angle wildlife shooting. Their ultra-wide view can pull the viewer into an entire landscape, while the close focuses of a mere 0.2m allow you to get up close and personal with your subjects (often wirelessly triggering) for impact filed images.

5 Top Value Lenses for Getting Started in Wildlife Photography

The 10-20mm is perfect for wide landscape shots or wildlife in the landscape.

wildlife photography lenses

Shot using the 10-20mm wide-angle lens.

These lenses cost around $ 300-500 so are brilliant options to give a wide scope to your shooting potential.

5 – Macro Lens 100/105mm

If you are interested in getting in close and looking at details as a wildlife photographer you’ll want to look into a macro lens for close up shooting. These specialist optics offer 1:1 life size reproduction ratios that are awesome for shooting insects and plants.

5 Top Value Lenses for Getting Started in Wildlife Photography

105mm macro lens being used in the garden.

The 100mm focal length is where you really want to invest as it offers the best in terms of performance, as well as a good working distance to help reduce the chance of your disturbing your subjects and getting in the way of your own lighting. The 100mm macro is a slightly more expensive lens but having been on the market for a while there are often many secondhand copies available offering discounts on the new price of around 30-40%.

It’s a truly great investment as these lenses are among the sharpest on the market with optical perfection that makes them a staple in many pros bags. The lenses are also great for a variety of non-macro tasks as well, with them often being used by portrait photographers for their flattering compression that makes beautiful backgrounds.


That’s a round up of a few of the top lenses to invest in if you are getting started in wildlife photography. They maybe slightly higher in price than some of the third party alternatives or lesser models, but these lenses will hold their own for many years, meaning the extra savings and investment will pay off with certainty in the long term.

wildlife photography lenses

If you do wildlife photography what lenses did you start off with? Which do you recommend? Please share in the comments section below.

The post 5 Top Value Lenses for Getting Started in Wildlife Photography by Tom Mason appeared first on Digital Photography School.

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How to do More Creative Wildlife Photography by using Rim Lighting

27 Jul

Wildlife photography is one of the fastest growing hobbies today. With DSLR and lenses getting cheaper by the minute, it is only bound to grow faster. With more and more people taking to wildlife photography as a means to connect with nature and share its beauties, it’s become imperative that you start pushing the bar of your photography ever higher. One of the best and easiest ways to do that is to try out rim lighting shots. If you do not know what that means, you are on the right page – keep reading.

How to do More Creative Wildlife Photography by using Rim Lighting

There are many ways to get creative with your wildlife photography, but in this article I will teach you one of the most impactful. Let’s start with getting to know rim lighting a little better.

What is rim lighting?

By definition, rim lighting in photography means any image where the light at the edges of the subject seems more intense than the other areas. For example, take a look at the image below.

How to do More Creative Wildlife Photography by using Rim Lighting

Notice how the outline of the giraffes stands out? The rim of the subject looks well-lit. Quite simply, that’s what rim lighting is about.

How do you achieve rim lighting?

First and foremost, you need to position yourself such that the subject stands between your camera and the light source (more often than not, that will be the sun in nature photography). Rim lighting will happen in the natural world only if you can see the rim, lit up with your eyes. Some of the easiest subjects for this are animals that have a lot of fur and are not too smooth coated, for example, bears, giraffes, lions, or deer with antlers.

Take a look at the visual below for a quick understanding on positioning yourself.



There are a few guidelines that you need to adhere to while trying to obtain a rim-lit image:

  • Rim lighting happens best when the sun is low in the sky, so try to look for a subject around that time.
  • A dark background is necessary (check all the images in this article) so make sure that you try this in an area where your background is conducive to good results.

Speaking about the camera now, composition aside, rim-lit photography can be done using one of two approaches.

Approach #1 – Exposure Compensation

Using exposure compensation is the easiest way to execute rim-lit shots. Once you have ensured that you are able to see a rim-lit subject just go ahead and try a test shot with a little underexposure. Take a look at the sequence of images below.

How to do More Creative Wildlife Photography by using Rim Lighting

Make note, by default when using the built-in metering system in your camera, more often than not the image in such scenarios (a lot of black and little bit of white) will turn out to be a bit washed out. It is just that the camera does not know what is the most important part of the image and makes an error in judgement (it tries to average the exposure).

Knowing where to stop with regards to exposure compensation is a subjective call. You could be happy with the second or the third image above. Just know that the more you underexpose the darker the surroundings will get.

This is a perfectly valid way of getting a rim-lit shot, but I generally recommend the second approach. The simple reason being that exposure compensation doesn’t reset itself. If you forget your camera is set at an EV of -2, it would mean disaster for the next few shots where you may not be trying to create a rim lighting shot.

How to do More Creative Wildlife Photography by using Rim Lighting

Approach #2 – Exposure Lock (AE-L)

This approach is slightly more advanced in terms of understanding. Imagine yourself standing in front of a monkey with the sun setting behind him and the immediate background being dark trees. Now, do the following:

  • Point your camera toward the sky. Half press your shutter-release button to activate metering.
  • Next, press the Exposure Lock Button (AE-L or * button) which often resides right where your right-hand thumb would rest.
  • Now, recompose your image with the subject as needed and click.

What happens is that when you point your camera towards the sky and ask it to meter from there, it takes a light reading from the bright sky and sets up a shutter/aperture combination accordingly. Let’s assume for a minute that the value came out to be 1/2000th at f/4.

Now, if you press the Exposure Lock button, the camera will lock on to these readings and will not change them for your next set of clicks. So when you recompose and photograph the monkey, the camera uses the locked in settings thus rendering only the areas in the frame that are as bright as the sky correctly. In this recomposed image, the only area that is as bright as the sky is the outline of the monkey, giving you a nice, well exposed rim-lit image.

How to do More Creative Wildlife Photography by using Rim Lighting

Practice around home first

Go ahead, practice the AE-L at home and then get out there and try a couple of rim-lit shots. Here is what you can do at home, before heading out to the wild.

Catch hold of a friend or family member and make them stand in front of a car at night. They should be covering the headlight of the car completely. If you stand at the other end with your friend in between yourself and the light source, you should be able to see his entire body with rim lighting.

Now that you know how to get a subject, go out there with your camera and start trying the exposure compensation trick to get some fabulous rim-lit images. Please share your rim-lit wildlife images below as well as any questions you may have about this technique.

How to do More Creative Wildlife Photography by using Rim Lighting

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How to Find Animals for Wildlife Photography Beginners

21 Jul

Wildlife photography may seem like an attractive field of photography to you, but one of the most daunting things for beginners is how to actually go about finding the animals in the first place. Thanks to mankind’s destructive nature we’re used to seeing fleeting glimpses of animals, often far away, prompting heated debates between groups as to what is that winged black speck in the distance.

5 Beginner Tips to Help You Find Animals for Wildlife Photography

Two female red grouse amongst the heather on a British moorland.

As a newcomer to wildlife photography, you may find yourself wondering how on Earth you are supposed to get even remotely close enough for a picture. Sure, you can maybe settle for an atmospheric habitat shot, with the subject small in the frame, but you’d be forgiven for wanting close-up portraits of animals too.

So let’s look at some of the ways you can achieve those super detailed close-up shots, showing every part of fur or feather.

1. Wildlife Parks and Reserves

5 Beginner Tips to Help You Find Animals for Wildlife Photography

One of the first pictures I ever took was in a wildlife reserve, and of this slightly soft Mandarin Duck.

One of the first places I visited when I first embarked on my journey as a wildlife photographer was a small wetland reserve. This reserve had some birds kept in open enclosures, as well as a river which was host to many wild ducks. Ducks tend to move slowly, at least when swimming casually along and are fairly easy to get close to (especially in a reserve frequented by well-intended people).

The best attraction for me, though, was the woodland hide. Situated in a quiet clump of trees, this woodland hide looked over a feeding station for wild birds. It was visited by mainly small passerines, such as great tits and bullfinches, but occasionally the odd predator would drop in such as a sparrow hawk.

5 Beginner Tips to Help You Find Animals for Wildlife Photography

Even small woodland birds are interesting and exhibit great behavior if you watch for a long time.

If you can find yourself a local reserve like this one, or just a public wildlife hide in a good spot, put in the hours and try to think outside the box. You’ll most likely come away with some decent images that you can be proud of.

2. Get a Wildlife Blind

Not happy with a public hide? Get your own wildlife blind – a camouflage tent, if you will – and set it up wherever you think wildlife may frequent. This might even be in your backyard, and if you set up a small feeding station there you could have all sorts of birds and small mammals visiting. Bird feeders filled with sunflower seeds will quickly attract small passerine birds, with squirrels most likely making a visit there too.

5 Beginner Tips to Help You Find Animals for Wildlife Photography

Wildlife blinds can get you close to all sorts of rare animals, like this black grouse.

Working in hides requires a lot of patience. In the past, I spent 15 hours a day for two weeks in a hide waiting for brown bears make an appearance. But even with animals that are visiting regularly, you’ll need to put in the hours to capture interesting behavior and something more than just a simple “bird on a stick” portrait shot.

3. Try Using a Trail Camera

If you’re really stuck for ideas or want to track down something a little more interesting, try setting up a small Bushnell trail camera in likely locations for animals. Such locations might be runs in a woodland (trodden down trails in the grass you can see, where animals move regularly). The camera will sit and watch 24/7 for you, triggering when something moves by. They’ll record video or take photos that you can later review, unveiling the secrets of a particular area to you.

5 Beginner Tips to Help You Find Animals for Wildlife Photography

Track down regular haunts of hard-to-spot animals like foxes by using a trail camera.

Some animals are nocturnal, and in those cases, you could even try setting up a DSLR camera trap, although these are usually used by more practiced wildlife photographers. I wouldn’t recommend trying out this technique just yet if you are very new to the game, and instead, stick to the trail cameras for finding locations.

4. Practice Your Fieldcraft Techniques

If you want to be a successful wildlife photographer, then you need good fieldcraft skills. You need to learn how to remain concealed, and silently approach animals without them noticing you. This involves learning to properly observe your subject. Only move when they are distracted. You should never approach an animal that is clearly alert and wary that something is nearby. Wait until they’re relaxed and unaware, before continuing to move closer.

5 Beginner Tips to Help You Find Animals for Wildlife Photography

Practicing your fieldcraft skills lets you get closer to animals without the need for a blind.

But learn the limits. There’s going to be a point you need to stop, otherwise, you would be standing nose to nose with a moose or something similar. You’ll need to practice stalking techniques, with many failures no doubt, before you get it just right. Simple things like thinking about the material your clothes are made of, in order to prevent loud noises when your walk, will make all the difference.

Once you’ve done that, you’ll find yourself able to spot an animal at a distance and get closer and closer. It takes time, but it’s great fun and it definitely makes the final image more worthwhile thanks to the hard work you put in. I love to try stalking red deer – they’re big, charismatic subjects but they’re really wary of people. They’ll happily stare at you standing still, but once they spot you moving towards them they’ll run a mile.

5. Keep Alert

Many of my wildlife photos are opportunistic. It doesn’t hurt to drive around with your camera in the passenger’s seat, keeping your eyes peeled for wildlife. In an ideal world, you’d have someone driving for you so you can pay 100% attention to the surrounding areas, rather than having to focus on the road.

5 Beginner Tips to Help You Find Animals for Wildlife Photography

Using your car as a hide can be a great way to find wildlife over a large area, like I did with this cuckoo bird.

Cars can be the best wildlife blinds available. Animals are so used to seeing them that they are mostly ignored. While you may get a photo from your car, this is also a great way to find the regular haunts for a particular animal. Dawn and dusk are the best times to start exploring when animals are generally most active.


Do you have any other tips for doing wildlife photography and finding animals to photograph? Please share in the comments below.

The post How to Find Animals for Wildlife Photography Beginners by Will Nicholls appeared first on Digital Photography School.

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6 Tips for Getting Sharper Wildlife Photos With a Super Telephoto Lens

29 May

In recent years, super telephoto lenses by third-party manufacturers such as Sigma and Tamron have been made available on the market for really reasonable prices. Earlier on, photographers had no choice but to spend a huge amount in order to buy a super telephoto lens, but now these third-party lenses make it more affordable. One such super telephoto lens is the Sigma 150-600mm f/5-6.3 DG OS HSM, which allows you to get much closer to a distant subject.

Using a super telephoto lens for wildlife photography is in itself a skill to master as you may not get sharp and clear results when you first pick up the lens. The tips below will help you get work better with a super telephoto lens so you can capture sharper wildlife photos going forward.

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#1 – Choose the correct shutter speed

Selection of the best shutter speed is one of the most important tasks when doing wildlife photography. There is a standard rule which says that the shutter speed should be equal to or faster than the focal length of the lens you’re using. So, if you are shooting with a 500mm focal length, then you need a shutter speed of at least 1/500th or faster (1/1000th, 1/2000th, and so on).

Shooting at a shutter speed slower than 1/500th can introduce camera shake and thus will affect the sharpness of the image. However, if your lens features image stabilization technology, you can then shoot at a slower shutter than the focal length. How much slower will depend on the performance of the technology for that particular lens.

NOTE: This rule is applicable for full-frame digital cameras. If you are using an APS-C sensor camera, then you also have to multiply the focal length by the crop factor of your camera brand (1.5x for Nikon, 1.6x for Canon, etc). In this case, the focal length would become 750mm with a Nikon APS-C sensor camera and thus a shutter speed of 1/750th of a second or faster needs to be used to get sharp photos.

Wildlife photography telephoto lens 07

Usually super telephoto lenses such as the Sigma 150-600mm f/5-6.3 DG OS HSM perform the best from 150mm to 500mm, and as you go beyond 500mm the sharpness starts to lessen. So try and avoid using a focal length which is towards the maximum limit of a telephoto lens.

#2 Use the right aperture value

In wildlife photography, depth of field plays a great role in helping to make the subject stand out from the background. In case you are not aware, shooting with wider aperture (smaller aperture values like f/2.8) helps you to achieve shallow depth of field. This results in a photo where the subject is sharp and well segregated from the background, which itself will be out of focus.

But this does not mean that you blindly shoot using the smallest available aperture value. Instead, I recommend that you shoot at the aperture value which is the sweet spot of your lens. Usually the sweet spot of a lens is 2-3 stops higher than the smallest aperture value. So it would be around f/11 if you are using the Sigma 150-600mm f/5-6.3. Shooting at the sweet spot aperture value allows you to get maximum possible sharpness in the photo, along with decent depth of field. By the way, you would likely be shooting at a focal length such as 500mm or so, and in that case, you would get shallow depth of field even at f/8 or f/11.

Wildlife photography telephoto lens 03

#3 – Selecting ISO sensitivity

ISO sensitivity is one of the sides of the exposure triangle which needs to be adjusted as per the shutter speed and aperture value required for the shoot. In the case of wildlife photography, you will have to compromise on the ISO sensitivity over the other two elements of the exposure triangle. Why?

You will have to use a fast shutter speed in order to freeze the motion of the subject and an aperture value which is not that wide in order to capture sharper photo. This is the reason why you might have to increase the ISO sensitivity value in order to capture a well-exposed photo. So the ISO should be the last exposure setting that you adjust in order to correctly expose the frame.

Wildlife photography telephoto lens 04

#4 – Use a tripod or monopod for stability

Considering the fact that the super telephoto lenses are really heavy, it is important and advisable to mount them on a tripod or a monopod. Almost all telephoto lenses have a tripod collar for mounting the lens on a tripod or a monopod. This will enable you to concentrate more on the surroundings and the movement of the animals/birds instead of worrying about carrying the weight of the lens.

If you shoot handheld at telephoto focal lengths such as 300mm, 400mm and so on, you are bound to get shake in your photos. As a precautionary measure, it is better to carry a tripod or a monopod along every time you plan to shoot wildlife.

Wildlife photography telephoto lens 05

#5 – Image Stabilization mode in your lens

In a situation when you need to pan your camera along with the moving animal or bird, make sure that you have switched on the image stabilization on your lens. This is helpful in case you are shooting handheld, as it reduces the shake that is caused while panning or tilting the camera. Image stabilization mode can be found on lenses as IS on Canon lenses, VR on Nikon lenses, OS on Sigma lenses, VC on Tamron lenses and OSS on Sony lenses.

But in case you are using a tripod or a monopod as advised above, switch off the image stabilization mode on the lens. If you keep it switched on, the image stabilization feature introduces minor shake which in turn reaches the camera mounted on a tripod or a monopod. So in order to eliminate this minor shake you must switch off the image stabilization mode on your telephoto lens.

Wildlife photography telephoto lens 02

#6 – Explore Back Button Focus

If you are not already using the back button focus method to lock the focus on the subject, then you must be half-pressing the shutter release button to do the needful. When you use the shutter release button to lock focus, you are further contributing introduction of minor camera shake.

By using the back button focus technique, you can dedicate one of the buttons located on the back of your camera to focus. By doing so, you are then balancing the weight of the camera as you press the button on the back side. Not only does it reduce camera shake, it also helps you shoot at much faster rate as compared to the traditional approach.

Wildlife photography telephoto lens 08


Shooting with a super telephoto lens is a delight, but it is also really important that you understand the technical aspects of using it to get sharp results. Do not be disappointed if your initial shots are not as sharp as you expected them to be.

Make sure that you are using the right shutter speed and aperture values, these two elements of the exposure triangle contribute the most to the sharpness of your photos. If possible, use a tripod or monopod and mount your telephoto lens on it to avoid any possible camera shake. In case you are shooting handheld, switch-on the image stabilization feature on the lens to further reduce the shake caused during panning or tilting of the camera.

Wildlife photography telephoto lens 06

Do you have any additional tips for getting sharper wildlife photos using a super telephoto lens? If so please share them in the comments section below.

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