Exploit the Light
Approach this kind of wildlife scene much the same way you would regular landscapes. The so-called magic hours near sunrise and sunset often create ideal light for animal scenics. Although many wildlife shooters avoid directional light—sidelight and backlight— it’s preferable for animal landscapes. Directional light adds shadows to images, revealing the texture of the landscape and the animal, and providing separation between elements in the scene. See how this works with the both the elk and Snow Geese images in the gallery.
Wildlife landscape photos often work best if the creature’s face is in the light, with at least one eye showing a catchlight from the sun. Flash at low power can be used to fill in shadows and provide a catchlight in the eyes if your subject is in the shade. Avoid full-power flash, unless you’re far away, as it can look artificial—typically, all you need is a hint of fill to help the animal subtly stand out from its surroundings.
With a wide angle of view, you also have to pay attention to what’s happening in the sky. Clouds that have distinct and interesting shapes can add excitement to animal landscapes, especially those taken at sunrise or sunset. As with traditional landscapes, you might need to use a split neutral- density filter to balance the light in the sky with the light in the foreground, especially if the clouds are sunlit and the landscape is in shadow.
The Question of Lenses
Just about any lens can be used to create an animal landscape. For animals at middle distance, telezoom lenses, such as a 70–200mm, 75–300mm, or 100–400mm will work well for full-frame DSLRs; equivalents for APS-C-sensor cameras would be 55–200mm or 55–250mm. These allow you to quickly zoom out to a focal length that includes some of the surrounding landscape.
Wide-to-normal zoom lenses work best if you want to include plenty of the surrounding landscape, but don’t expect the animal to be prominent in the scene unless it is very large or very close
Most often you should avoid getting near to wildlife. Some animals are dangerous, and most don’t like it when people get really close and stick a lens in their faces.
Nonetheless, sometimes close encounters do happen, creating opportunities for interesting per- spectives. Once, while exploring the Utah desert, I stopped for a moment, only to find a jackrabbit sitting still right next to me, less than a foot away. I couldn’t resist the temptation of taking a few quick wide-angle shots before slowly backing away to give the rabbit some space. It eventually hopped away, leaving me with the unique image of a typically shy desert animal.