Wildlife Photography Tips

 

Wildlife Photography Tips

Here are 10 simple wildlife photography tips for the aspiring photographer.

1) Go on a wildlife photography course. Whether you are a beginner or at an intermediate level, spending sometime with a professional wildlife photographer can kick-start your hobby. I run a variety of wildlife photography workshops – contact me so that I can help you with your photography.

 

A wildlife photography course is a great way to kick-start your hobby.

A wildlife photography course is a great way to kick-start your hobby.

 

2) Get the right equipment and learn how to use it. A common question I get is “what camera equipment should I buy”. There is really no easy answer, and it is largely a function of ones budget and level of expertise. It is a reality however that you will need some specialized equipment like a telephoto lens and perhaps something like a macro lens too. Again, some expert advice can save you a great deal of heartache, time and money.

 

For wildlife photography it is a reality that you will need some specialized camera equipment like a telephoto lens.

For wildlife photography it is a reality that you will need some specialized camera equipment like a telephoto lens.

 

 

3) Importance of light. Be aware how light can effect the quality of your image. With a few exceptions nature photographers are looking for great light and are shooting early in the morning and late in the afternoon in order to get the warmth and texture of the sun close to the horizon.

4) Africa is full of great wildlife destinations and we are spoilt for choice. However it is quite easy to go to a great destination at entirely the wrong time of the year or even the wrong place within the park. Do some research or ask wildlife photographers for tips on your intended destination.

5) Be creative and look for different angles and try different techniques. One of the great advantages of digital photography is the ability to instantly see your photograph, so this makes experimentation easy.

 

Experiment with different techniques. What makes this picture interesting is that it was taken at a slow shutter speed to deliberately give it motion blur.

Experiment with different techniques. What makes this picture interesting is that it was taken at a slow shutter speed to deliberately give it motion blur.

 

6) Practice on domestic animals and pets. When I get a new camera or perhaps want to get proficient with the auto focus system I don’t wait for my next trip to the bush.  I simply get hold of someone’s dog and practice on the animal running around the garden. Admittedly its not very glamorous but it’s a great way to get in some practice and get familiar with my camera.

 

Practice on domestic animals so that when the time comes for that once in a lifetime shot you will be ready and proficient with your camera equipment.

Practice on domestic animals so that when the time comes for that once in a lifetime shot you will be ready and proficient with your camera equipment.

 

 

7) Wildlife photographs need to be sharp. (Unless you are deliberately shooting motion blur for example) Learn the basics of camera settings to ensure you have the correct shutter speed and depth of field. It is also important to learn how to steady your camera to ensure sharp images. Once again, a photography workshop can help you with these techniques.

8) Persistence and patience is essential. Yes you can be lucky but generally it’s a matter of getting out there for long periods and waiting for animals to do something interesting. Many animals, like lions for example, will spend hours sleeping and sometimes it is a matter of just waiting for something to happen.

 

Sometimes it’s all about patience. Waiting for a lion to do something can make all the difference.

Sometimes it’s all about patience. Waiting for a lion to do something can make all the difference.

 

9) Do not over look the smaller animals, which can be just as much fun to photograph and are usually much easier to find. Perhaps even in your garden. As much as I may like to spend time photographing an elephant it can be equally satisfying to photograph a small reptile or insect.

 

Smaller animals like these geckos can be just as satisfying to photograph as the larger mammal and bird species.

Smaller animals like these geckos can be just as satisfying to photograph as the larger mammal and bird species.

 

10) Anticipate what an animal is going to do.  If you are driving through a game reserve for example and see an animal walking towards a waterhole then get into position before it starts to drink so that you are ready to take advantage of its behavior.

 

Anticipate animal behavior. I saw these lions walking towards a waterhole so I was able to get into position in advance and ready myself in anticipation of them drinking.

Anticipate animal behavior. I saw these lions walking towards a waterhole so I was able to get into position in advance and ready myself in anticipation of them drinking.

 

 

Landscape Photography Tips

Landscape Photography Tips

Landscape photography is by definition the photography of landforms and can include natural or man-made forms.

With improvements in digital technology, anyone can go outside and shoot a landscape photograph, but a great picture takes some planning, preparation and composition.

Here are 10 tips to improve your photography.

1) Go on a landscape photography course. This will kick start your creativity and give you some grounding in the essentials. Understanding the basics like, f-stops, ISO and shutter speed is fundamental to landscape photography. I run one-on-one photography courses, so contact me to get help.

2) Visit some great locations and take pictures. Some of the most popular areas with landscape photographers in southern Africa include the Drakensberg Mountains, coastal areas near Cape Town and the Namib Desert of Namibia.

 

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Cape Town has some great landscape photography locations.

 

 

3) Plan your trip. Find out from nature photographers when is the best time of the year to photograph a particular location. Years ago, I went to Patagonia in the month of October, only to have three weeks of non-stop rain. With a little research, I would have found out that the autumn months of March and April are generally the best time.

4) Having said the above, bad weather can sometimes produce the most interesting landscape photograph. A beautiful blue sky can make for a nice but boring landscape, whereas a dramatic sky full of stormy clouds could make a great picture of the same location.

 

Dramatic clouds and light can turn an ordinary landscape into something extraordinary

 

5) Consider the light. With a few exceptions, most landscapes are at their best in the early morning or late afternoon. So plan to be at your destination well before the optimal light. This will also give you time to look around and see your location, and look for different angles and compositions.

6) Study and understand the rules of composition (easily found on the internet), something I cover in my photography courses. Although all rules can be broken, on the whole they generally make for a good starting point.

 

Following some basic rules of composition is normally a good starting point for the beginner landscape photographer.

 

7) Enhance your creativity. Although most of us are not born with much creativity, it is something that can definitely be learnt and enhanced. Look at the work of great landscape photographers and get inspiration. Then practice by taking lots of pictures. As with most things in life, the more you practice the better one gets.

8) Do not be put of by some physical hardship. Landscape photography is one of the more difficult genres of nature photography. Not only is it challenging to one’s creativity, but it can also be physically difficult. It is not unusual to have to walk long distances and it inevitably means getting up early in the morning, and frequently one can be either cold, hot and sometimes wet.

9) Be persistent. Although you can be lucky, more often than not one will have to visit a great location several times to get a really good picture. Great landscape photography usually take some time and patience.

 

Persistence is essential. Although one can be lucky, usually one has to visit a location several times to get the right combination of light and composition.

Persistence is essential. Although one can be lucky, usually one has to visit a location several times to get the right combination of light and composition.

 

10) Embrace new technology. New developments in technology and software have meant lots of exciting possibilities, and it is now comparatively simple to shoot a panoramic, an HDR (high dynamic range) image or perhaps the night sky with the Milky Way. 

 

This landscape photograph is a combination of a panoramic and an HDR. The panoramic gives a much wider field of view. The HDR enables much greater detail in the dark foreground and bright sky.

This landscape photograph is a combination of a panoramic and an HDR. The panoramic gives a much wider field of view. The HDR enables much greater detail in the dark foreground and bright sky.

 

 

 

Latest Images 2014

Orphaned baby aardvark

Orphaned baby aardvark at the Naankuse Wildlife Sanctuary. Namibia.

Barn owl and the milky way in Sossusvlei, Namibia.

Barn owl and the milky way in Sossusvlei, Namibia.

Baby elephant in Amboseli National Park, Kenya.

Baby elephant in Amboseli National Park, Kenya.

Magnificent elephant bull with Mount Kilimanjaro in the background. Amboseli National Park, Kenya.

Magnificent elephant bull with Mount Kilimanjaro in the background. Amboseli National Park, Kenya.

Beautifully shaped acacia tree in the NamibRand Nature Reserve, Namibia.

Beautifully shaped acacia tree in the NamibRand Nature Reserve, Namibia.

Leopard portrait. Namibia.

Leopard portrait. Namibia.

Maasai warrior standing under an acacia tree. Kenya.

Maasai warrior standing under an acacia tree. Kenya.

Meerkats warming up in the winter sun. Kalahari desert. Botswana.

Meerkats warming up in the winter sun. Kalahari desert. Botswana.

Milky way over a dead camel thorn tree. Sossusvlei. Namibia.

Milky way over a dead camel thorn tree. Sossusvlei. Namibia.

Sand dune and clouds, Soussusvlei, Namibia.

Sand dune and clouds, Soussusvlei, Namibia.

Three zebra pause before taking the plunge into the Mara River, Kenya.

Three zebra pause before taking the plunge into the Mara River, Kenya.

Latest Images 2013

Aerial view of lesser flamingo along the shore of Lake Logipi in northern Kenya.

Aerial view of lesser flamingo along the shore of Lake Logipi in northern Kenya.

Aerial view of lesser flamingo. Lake Logipi  northern Kenya

Aerial view of lesser flamingo. Lake Logipi northern Kenya

Rendille mother and child in northern Kenya.

Rendille mother and child in northern Kenya.

Unusual rock formations in the jade colored waters of Lake Turkana, north Kenya.

Unusual rock formations in the jade colored waters of Lake Turkana, north Kenya.

Female black rhino with unusually long horns in the grasslands of Lewa Wildlife Conservancy, north Kenya.

Female black rhino with unusually long horns in the grasslands of Lewa Wildlife Conservancy, north Kenya.

Female black rhino and calf with unusually long horns in the grasslands of Lewa Wildlife Conservancy, north Kenya.

Female black rhino and calf with unusually long horns in the grasslands of Lewa Wildlife Conservancy, north Kenya.

Black rhino with red billed oxpeckers.  Lewa Wildlife Conservancy, north Kenya.

Black rhino with red billed oxpeckers. Lewa Wildlife Conservancy, north Kenya.

A pair of lilac breasted rollers uses a black rhino for a perch in the grasslands of Lewa Wildlife Conservancy, north Kenya.

A pair of lilac breasted rollers uses a black rhino for a perch in the grasslands of Lewa Wildlife Conservancy, north Kenya.

A critically endangered northern white rhino in Ol Pejeta Wildlife Conservancy, Kenya.

A critically endangered northern white rhino in Ol Pejeta Wildlife Conservancy, Kenya.

A group of white rhino meeting at a waterhole. Lewa Wildlife Conservancy, north Kenya.

A group of white rhino meeting at a waterhole. Lewa Wildlife Conservancy, north Kenya.

Grey heron catching fish. Hungary in central Europe.

Grey heron catching fish. Hungary in central Europe.

Full moon rising and silhouetting white storks roosting on a fever tree. Lewa Wildlife Conservancy, north Kenya.

Full moon rising and silhouetting white storks roosting on a fever tree. Lewa Wildlife Conservancy, north Kenya.

Captive white lion running towards the camera.  Glen Afric in South Africa.

Captive white lion running towards the camera.
Glen Afric in South Africa.

Fitz Roy massif at sunrise. Los Glaciares National Park.  Argentina.

Fitz Roy massif at sunrise. Los Glaciares National Park. Argentina.

Fitz Roy massif at sunrise. Los Glaciares National Park.  Argentina.

Fitz Roy massif at sunrise. Los Glaciares National Park. Argentina.

A pink Fitz Roy massif catching the very first sunrays. Los Glaciares National Park.  Argentina.

A pink Fitz Roy massif catching the very first sunrays. Los Glaciares National Park. Argentina.

Sunrise on Cuernos del Paine. Torres del Paine National Park. Chile.

Sunrise on Cuernos del Paine. Torres del Paine National Park. Chile.

Guanacos with rainbow. Torres del Paine National Park. Chile.

Guanacos with rainbow. Torres del Paine National Park. Chile.

Hermit crab on Cousine Island. Seychelles.

Hermit crab on Cousine Island. Seychelles.

Tropic bird .Cousine Island. Seychelles.

Tropic bird .Cousine Island. Seychelles.

European spoonbill. Hungary in central Europe.

European spoonbill. Hungary in central Europe.

Young elephants playing in waterhole while mother looks on at Glen Afric in South Africa.

Young elephants playing in waterhole while mother looks on at Glen Afric in South Africa.

A lilac breasted roller uses a black rhino for a perch in the grasslands of Lewa Wildlife Conservancy, north Kenya.

A lilac breasted roller uses a black rhino for a perch in the grasslands of Lewa Wildlife Conservancy, north Kenya.

Favorite Places – Patagonia Photo Shoot

Patagonia is the southern part of South America and encompasses some of the world’s most beautiful scenery. To me, the word “Patagonia” has that exotic, wilderness like association similar to Borneo, or the Kalahari and in fact it really is as spectacular and wild as the name implies. (unlike Borneo which sadly, isn’t very wild).

It’s a landscape photographers dream and nightmare all rolled into one. Nightmare, as the weather can be appalling with persistent rain and winds that will literally blow you off your feet, but a dream when on the odd day the sun rises and bathes the mountains in light so golden that it’s a photographer’s fantasy come true.

Recently I had the privilege of traveling to the southern Andes with landscape photographer Hougaard Malan www.hougaardmalan.com – we visited two areas, Torres del Paine National Park and , Los Glacieres National Park which is a bit further north.

Both areas are stunningly beautiful. Torres del Paine has the advantage of a road running through it, so for the lazy like me it is a bit more accessible. It also has some wildlife and its possible to see condors, guanacos and even the occasional puma. Los Glaciers on the other hand is perhaps a little more scenic but to get to the more beautiful parts it requires some serious walking. Because of its spectacular beauty, Los Glacieres National Park is a World Heritage Site.

Sun rise on Mt Fitsroy in the Lado de Los Tres area. Los Glacieres National Park

Sun rise on Mt Fitsroy in the Lado de Los Tres area. Los Glacieres National Park

Sun rise on Mt Fitsroy in the Lado de Los Tres area. Los Glacieres National Park

Sun rise on Mt Fitsroy in the Lado de Los Tres area. Los Glacieres National Park

 

One morning after slogging up the side of the mountains in pre dawn darkness to catch the sun rising on Lago de Los Tres, we were lucky enough to get the beautiful light on mount Fitsroy – I couldn’t help but think of David Livingstone’s famous quote of Victoria Falls  -

‘Scenes so lovely must have been gazed upon by Angels in their flight’

Not that I’m a great believer in angels but the sheer jaw dropping beauty of the place, in those few short minutes of sunrise, certainly had me going for awhile.

Sunrise on Fitsroy. These beautiful waterfalls are hidden away off the path to the Fitsroy basecamp. Los Glacieres National Park

Sunrise on Fitsroy. These beautiful waterfalls are hidden away off the path to the Fitsroy basecamp. Los Glacieres National Park

Panoramic photograph of the sunrise on the Andes mountains near El Chalten. Los Glacieres National Park

Panoramic photograph of the sunrise on the Andes mountains near El Chalten. Los Glacieres National Park

Guanaco in Torres del Paine National Park

Guanaco in Torres del Paine National Park

Guanacos are common in Torres del Paine National Park and offer some great photography opportunities with snowcapped peaks in the background.

Guanacos are common in Torres del Paine National Park and offer some great photography opportunities with snowcapped peaks in the background.

Sunrise on the lakes and mountains of the Torres del Paine National Park in Chile.

Sunrise on the lakes and mountains of the Torres del Paine National Park in Chile.

Mountain guide leaping over a crevasse Los Glacieres National Park.

Mountain guide leaping over a crevasse Los Glacieres National Park.

Both parks offer glacier trekking – exploring the glacier crevasses offers some unusual adventure photography opportunities.

Both parks offer glacier trekking – exploring the glacier crevasses offers some unusual adventure photography opportunities.

The Chorrillo del salto waterfall surrounded by autumn colors . Los Glacieres National Park

The Chorrillo del salto waterfall surrounded by autumn colors . Los Glacieres National Park

Wildlife Photography Workshops

After many years of photographing animals from the back of a vehicle, working with habituated animals that are used for film shoots is a whole new exciting experience. Being eye to eye with a lion or leopard or any one of a number of species is more personal and gives you an adrenalin rush like no other.

Combine this with a photo workshop, its not only great fun but is a good way to get some quick photography tuition with your camera and great preparation for an up coming holiday or photo safari.

There are several facilities close to Johannesburg that have habituated animals used for film shoots and these offer excellent photo opportunities for a variety of animals.

Animals available vary as they grow up or move to other facilities but there is normally a number of species available. Contact me and I can organize an animal encounter that is both fun and enjoy a day learning about animal photography.

Photographing a male white lion at Glen Africa.

Photographing a male white lion at Glen Africa.

Young male white lion walking towards the camera – an experience of a lifetime.

Young male white lion walking towards the camera – an experience of a lifetime.

Photographing elephants up close.

Photographing elephants up close.

Cow elephant and calf playing offer some unique photo opportunities.

Cow elephant and calf playing offer some unique photo opportunities.

 

 

Getting a unique angle on a giraffe.

Getting a unique angle on a giraffe.

Eye to eye with a giraffe

Eye to eye with a giraffe

An aspiring photographer gets a little closer to his subject than he expected.

An aspiring photographer gets a little closer to his subject than he expected.

Lion cub.

Lion cub.

Very close encounter with wild dog.

Very close encounter with wild dog.

An angle on a zebra you will not get from your car.

An angle on a zebra you will not get from your car.

Favorite Places – Lewa Wildlife Conservancy and Ol Pejeta Conservancy, Kenya.

Recently I have been fortunate to do two photo trips to the Lewa and Ol Pejeta Wildlife  Conservancies  which are private reserves on the lower slopes of Mount Kenya.

Although they don’t offer the spectacular photographic opportunities of some other reserves in Kenya both are wonderfully scenic with Mt Kenya as a constant backdrop to the idyllic fever trees and wide open plains.  Best of all they are “far from the madding crowds” of Amboseli and Maasai Mara, so it is still possible to have something approaching a wilderness experience.

Ol Pejeta - lone acacia tree with Mt. Kenya in the background.

Ol Pejeta – lone acacia tree with Mt. Kenya in the background.

Two black rhino with lilac breasted roller

Two black rhino with lilac breasted roller

Like all parks with rhino they have also had some poaching problems, but Lewa is certainly one of the best parks in Africa to see both black and white rhino. Both species are very habituated so it is possible to get close views and great for photography.

Black rhino with ox-peckers

Black rhino with ox-peckers

White rhino socializing at waterhole.

White rhino socializing at waterhole.

Black rhino with Mt Kenya in the background.

Black rhino with Mt Kenya in the background.

Northern white rhino. Ol Pejeta also has  a breeding project for the critically endangered northern white rhino.

Northern white rhino. Ol Pejeta also has a breeding project for the critically endangered northern white rhino.

Full moon rising behind fever tree with white storks.

Full moon rising behind fever tree with white storks.

Lone acacia trees dot the landscape and provide some nice landscape photography opportunities.

Lone acacia trees dot the landscape and provide some nice landscape photography opportunities.

Lewa also offers some other unusual species to photograph and has one of Africa’s largest populations of the endangered Grevy’s zebra.

Lewa also offers some other unusual species to photograph and has one of Africa’s largest populations of the endangered Grevy’s zebra.

Wild dog on the hunt in Ol Pejeta.

Wild dog on the hunt in Ol Pejeta.

Black rhino with exceptionally large horns.

Black rhino with exceptionally large horns.

Endangered Species

Many years ago my conservation thinking was influenced by Aldo Leopold’s “A sand Country Almanac”, probably one of the most important books on conservation philosophy ever written.

There is something very profound about the opening sentences and for anyone who has a love of wilderness and for wild animals it resonates strongly with how we feel about wildlife.

“There are some who can live without wild things and some who cannot …….. Like winds and sunsets wild things were taken for granted until progress began to do away with them. Now we face the question whether a still higher standard of living is worth its cost in things natural wild and free. For us of the minority, the opportunity to see geese is more important than television and the chance to find a pasque flower is a right as inalienable as free speech.”

To slightly misquote Aldo Leopold, I suppose there are two kinds of people – those who mourn the loss of a species and those who don’t.

I have had the great privilege of having travelled the world and seen and photographed some of the world’s rarest species. A few days ago I picked up the book again and the opening passage made me think about how little has changed in the past years – in fact how his words seem more prophetic than ever. We are of the generation where these “wild things” are becoming so rare that very few people will ever see them in the wild, and the saddest fact is that by far the greatest majority of people really don’t care.

Recently I traveled to Kenya to see and photograph three very rare “wild things” black rhino, the northern white rhino and the Grevy’s zebra, all endangered.

While there I could not help but reflect on a few statistics regarding the number of “wild things” compared to humans -

But ponder on these numbers below !

Humans  7,102,561,363 ( 7 billion) and growing by 75 million a year.

Northern white rhino – 8 and extinct in the wild. Captive population only.

Ryno

Northern white rhino – 8 and extinct in the wild. Captive population only.

Black rhino – 3500

Black rhino - 3500

Black rhino – 3500

Grevy’s zebra about 2000

Grevy’s zebra about 2000

Grevy’s zebra about 2000

Cheetah 7000 to 10000

Cheetah 7000 to 10000

Cheetah 7000 to 10000

Bonobo chimps 30000 to 50000

Bonobo chimps 30000 to 50000

Bonobo chimps 30000 to 50000

Mountain gorilla – less than 700

Mountain gorilla – less than 700

Mountain gorilla – less than 700

Ethiopian wolf 360 to 440

Ethiopian wolf 360 to 440

Ethiopian wolf 360 to 440

Scimitar-horned oryx – extinct in the wild. Some captive populations only.

Scimitar-horned oryx – extinct in the wild. Some captive populations only.

Gelada baboons – less than 250 000 and declining

Gelada baboons – less than 250 000 and declining

Gelada baboons – less than 250 000 and declining

Aldabra giant tortoise – less than 200000

Aldabra giant tortoise – less than 200000

Aldabra giant tortoise – less than 200000

Helicopter Safari

Helicopter Safari

Flying at sunrise over Lake Baringo

Some photographs courtesy of R.C. and Isak Pretorius.

I have over the last few years, been fortunate enough to be invited as the photography guide on a number of helicopter safaris’ in Kenya and Namibia.

Of all my travels over the last few years nothing comes close to this as a photography adventure. What is normally tedious hours of travel by road becomes a short helicopter flight, usually with an opportunity to photograph something unusual or from a totally different perspective.

To see videos of these helicopter safaris click on these links -

Photographing from a Bell helicopter

Photographing from a Bell helicopter

It is expensive obviously but if you are working on your bucket list then a helicopter safari just might be something you want to consider. There are incredible aerial photography opportunities, and its also just a great adventure.

 

Helicopter Safaris

A wide range of cameras on the back seats of a helicopter

 

HeliSafari034

Flamingo on the shores of Lake Logipi

Not all countries are suitable for this type of photo adventure. Ideally you need a country which still has some wilderness left so Kenya, Botswana, Namibia are ideal. Ethiopia is an option too although I personally haven’t done a helicopter safari there.

 

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Aerial photography from a helicopter over Lake Turkana

 

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Unusual rock patterns in Lake Turkana

 

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Herd of giraffe in the Okavango delta

 

A small hidden vlei in the Namib desert

A small hidden vlei in the Namib desert

A great advantage of a helicopter photo safari is getting access to remote areas that are rarely seen and are virtually inaccessible by any other means of transport.

 

Visiting a remote tribe in northern Kenya

Visiting a remote tribe in northern Kenya

 

An aerial view of hippo in the clear waters of the Okavango delta.

An aerial view of hippo in the clear waters of the Okavango delta.

 

 

Favorite Places Cousine Island – Seychelles

If someone asked me what is my favorite place on the planet to photograph it would be hard to single out any one place but Cousine Island in the Seychelles would certainly be high on my list.

Cousine is a small island just off the coast of Praslin and is a combination luxury resort and private nature reserve.

Travel Photograpy

Like most islands its natural fauna and flora had been decimated by the introduction of alien plants and cats. In 1992 the island was purchased and a conservation programme introduced to protect nesting sea turtles and maintain existing populations of endemic land birds including the Seychelles Magpie Robin, the Seychelles Warbler and the Seychelles Fody.

Feral cats had been present on the island but were eradicated in 1985. Luckily, Cousine Island has never had the misfortune of having a rat population present on the island, hence the large numbers of ground nesting sea birds like White-Tailed Tropic birds, and Wedge-Tailed Shearwaters. It also has a population of Aldabra giant tortoises. Hawksbill and green turtles nest on this island.

Cousine Island Travel Photograpy

The island has undergone an extensive vegetation rehabilitation programme which involves planting of indigenous flora and the removal of alien plant species.

It is now restored to its natural state and the best way I could describe it is a miniature Galapagos Island. There are animals everywhere you look and what is more they are relatively tame. A photographers dream.

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