How to Photograph the Beauty of Wildlife
Wildlife photography is the genre of photography which documents the life of wild animals in their natural habitat. It requires many technical skills, dedication, and courage, but it is very rewarding at all levels. You’ve got to love nature and animals to choose this genre. You also need to learn a lot of things, and not just about photography. Equipment and logistics are equally important. Here are some tips to help you master wildlife photography.
Visit Their Natural Habitat
Wildlife in a zoo isn’t exactly wildlife. Freedom is maybe the most important feature of wildlife photography. You need to visit the animals in their natural habitat and this can be tough. Still, there are natural parks, natural reserves, where animals live almost like in the wild. There are no fences and the human footprint is minimal. In addition, these places usually have professional guides to show you around. So don’t photograph dolphins at delfinarium and lions at the circus. Learn to appreciate freedom. Wildlife doesn’t mean just dangerous and exotic animals. You can photograph birds near the city river or deer in the nearby forest. Just make sure you exclude any human touch from your compositions.
Know Your Subject
Wild animals are not camera friendly. They don’t like strangers and are experts of disguise. So if you want to photograph them in their natural habitat, you’ll have to learn their lifestyle, know their territory, and have a lot of patience. Some animals are very hard to find or seasonal (like migratory birds) and getting a good picture can take months. You need to know exactly where they like to be, what is the perfect moment of the day for a meeting, and what habits they have. Sometimes, a local guide is absolutely necessary.
Photographing animals is not just about getting exciting images. It is more about documenting the life of wild animals. It’s a photojournalistic genre of photography. It’s important to have narrative, to tell a story. Focus on a single subject and follow it with open heart and mind. If you need some inspiration, there are great wildlife photographers in the world. Study their work and find your own voice.
Choose the Right Gear
Wildlife photographers are usually specialized and photograph just several species or a general category like birds, elephants, big cats, arctic animals etc. This is due to the fact that a huge amount of knowledge is required for each animal. Moreover, equipment and technical skills are also different. There is a huge difference between photographing tigers in Siberia or aquatic fauna, insects or elephants. For most terrestrial big animals you need a good telephoto lens, a tripod, and camouflage. Choose light gear, a comfortable backpack or photo bag. It’s possible to walk long distances or to stay hidden in the bushes for a long time. Take some supplies with you (preferably not smelling ones). For taking pictures under the water you need special waterproof cameras and diving equipment. For insects, you need macro lenses. In wildlife photography, equipment is really important. It’s also important to be able to use it fast and precise because your subject is almost always moving.
Wildlife photography is a unique experience. Getting so close to wild animals and seeing them in their natural habitat is amazing. But it isn’t for everyone. You have to love what you’re doing and most of all you have to understand your subject. Getting to know animals’ lifestyle and environment is a huge part of this type of photography. It is a challenge, but it’s a very rewarding one. Animals are honest, innocent, and beautiful. And the trips required to visit them are adventures you’ll never forget.