Top nature shooters share their tricks of the trade.
Wildlife in General
The pros we spoke with offered a plethora of useful tips for better wildlife photography, no matter what your subject:
-- Practice on Pets. Diane McAllister, who lives in the mountains outside Reno, NV, has taken some of the best grizzly photos we’ve ever seen—but she doesn’t attribute her success to her Canon cameras, her timing, or her fearlessness. She thanks her two pet Labrador retrievers. In the months before her Alaskan excursions, she practices focusing, exposure, tripod handling, lighting, and framing on her dogs. “They’re not as big as grizzlies, but they’re just as active and unpredictable,” she says.
-- Learn The Basics at locations where the animals have little fear of humans, such as the Falkland and Galápagos Islands, or in relatively isolated areas such as New Mexico’s Bosque del Apache.
-- Don’t get too close. Wild animal portraits have more impact if you include enough of the natural surroundings to prove that the animals are not confined.
-- Take advantage of a motionless subject to change camera orientation, crop, and exposure until you’ve exhausted the possibilities.
-- Move your tripod or monopod often. Even slight repositioning can add variety, and prevent the impression that you’ve taken the same picture multiple times.
-- Fast-moving subjects require f/2.8 and faster lenses.
-- The faster your subject, the higher your camera’s burst rate should be.
-- Go to the light. You can’t get good wildlife photos in dim or contrasty light. Your most productive outings will be those under bright but overcast skies.
-- Use flash underwater to compensate for subsurface blue casts as Brian Skerry did for his harp seal pup. The closer you are to your subject, the more effective this technique will be. Keep the flash off-camera to prevent backscatter.
-- Observe before you shoot. Looking for repeated and characteristic behaviors can lead you to better angles and lighting, as well as more expressive body language.
-- Concentrate on the edges of herds. Pro Jason Hahn focuses first on the fringes of groups to capture individual animals and smaller group interactions. Result? Generally cleaner compositions.
-- Look for patches of sunlight when searching for cold-blooded alligators, frogs, and turtles. They’re drawn to the sun for its warmth, so park yourself nearby.
-- Hire a local guide when you’re traveling for the first time to a distant location to help you find the best spots for photography.
-- Save your coordinates in the wilderness by using a GPS dongle such as Nikon’s GP-1 ($195, street) .Knowing your exact location will help you return for more.
Here's a list of all our experts:
Kevin Barry, www.flickr.com/photos/kevin_barry peter barta, bartaphotography.com John Blumenkamp, www.tetontrail.com Paul Burwell, www.paulburwell.com Fabiola anD Alfred Forns, www.avianscapes.com Jim Gilbert, www.jimgilbertphoto.com Charles Gatzer, www.shootthelight.com Barry Steven Greff, www.barrystevengreff.com Jason Hahn, www.jasonhahn.com Beverly Joubert, www.wildlifeconservationfilms.com Oliver Klink, www.incredibletravelphotos.com Scott Linstead, www.scottyphotography.com Diane Mcallister, www.imprintsofnature.com Chris Mclennan, www.cmphoto.co.nz Donald Miralle, www.donaldmiralle.com Tim Rock, timrock.com Brian Skerry, www.brianskerry.com Laura C. Williams, www.lauracwilliams.com