The Essence of Wildlife Photography: Part 1

The Essence of Wildlife Photography

The Essence of Wildlife Photography

This series of posts will be taken partly from my notes on a wildlife photography workshop that I give at the Ed Yarborough Education Center in the Geneva Wilderness area.

Part 1: Getting to Know Your Subject.

 Because this workshop was for those who want to take their wildlife photography beyond just the “nature walk picture taking,” one of the first things you will want to do is really get to know your subject.
Sure, there are times when I head out to my favorite places with nothing particular on the menu to photograph; but for the most part I do have a specific target in mind and anything else that runs across my path is just gravy on the ‘taters.
Keeping an Eye Out

So I do my research. The internet is a wealth of information. Just type your subject into your favorite web browser and tons of articles will pop up. For those of you in Florida, the Florida Fish and WildlifeConservation Commission is a great place to start. So whether my intended subject is a specific bird, alligators, deer, bear or even the Florida Panther, I research as much as I can about the subject; learning its habits -  territories, feeding, mating, brooding. Anything and everything I can learn about my subject will help me better prepare for the shoot; which will, in turn, help me get better photos of that subject.
I was able to get this shot of a Crested Caracara calling for its mate because I
Calling All Caracara!

knew enough about them to recognize what this one was about to do. Many times behavior like this lasts only a few seconds, so if you are ready you won’t miss as many of the cool shots.
In wildlife photography, knowing your subject applies even if you are just out to get a landscape shot you will want to research it as well. The best way to do that is to head out to the place where you want to take the landscape photo. What makes the area a cool spot for a photograph? Wide open spaces? A solitary tree? Some rolling mountains? Will there be a possibility of birds flying by during the shoot; or perhaps animals? Once you’ve decided on what you think will be the best spot for the photograph you have in mind, you’ll want to find out when the best time of day will be for your shot’s optimal lighting. If it is going to be a sunrise or sunset shot, go out about an hour before the sun rises, or stay about an hour after the sun sets. Many times the lights in the sky during civil twilight (30 minutes before the sun sets and rises) are even more beautiful than the actual sunrise or sunset itself.
The Morning Commute

Another method that shouldn’t be discounted is the valuable information of other photographers. Many photographers you will come across have been at this for years. The information you can glean from them is truly invaluable.
Well, that about wraps it up for this topic. In the next post of my Essence of Wildlife Photography series, I’ll cover the camera settings that will get you started. Since the question I get asked the most is, “What should my settings be for shooting (this, that and the other)?” I figured this will be the best platform to answer it!
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