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Episode 61: Successful Wildlife Photography with Nikon Ambassador Ron Magill
“The best tool I have to teach people about the wonders of nature is photography.”
About Ron Magill
- Nikon Ambassador
- Zoo Miami (38 yrs!) -now Director of Communications
- He has appeared on a wide variety of local, national, and international programs including National Geographic Explorer, the Today Show, Good Morning America, NBC Nightly News, The Late Show with David Letterman, CBS This Morning, Dateline, CNN, and the Discovery Networks
- Started taking pictures to accompany his research papers
- Entered International Nikon contest (about 20 years ago) and won $10k worth of Nikon equipment
“The reason for photography is to make the majority of people smile, or have some kind of emotional impact.”
There are 2 major categories of photographer:
Artists: those who strive for that ONE perfect image to enlarge, frame, and display.
Storytellers: those that capture moments with their camera that tell a story.
“The first person that has to like your photograph is YOU! If you don’t like your own photograph, it doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks.”
3 Points for Success in Wildlife Photography
- Know your subject- being able to anticipate behaviors will make sure you’re ready for the shot when that perfect moment arrives.
- PATIENCE! Animals aren’t interested in your timeline, you need to adapt to theirs…sit and wait quietly, amazing things will happen! (NEVER chase animals. Find a good spot and wait for them to come to you. If you’re there first, the animals will be less skittish that you’re there.)
- Luck. Sometimes being in the right place at the right time is just luck!
“Don’t miss the moment!”
Don’t get so caught up in the technicals that you miss what’s happening in front of you. Take the shot! Sometimes the moment is more important than adhering to the “rules” of composition.
“The camera can see things that happen too fast for you to see. The beauty of still photography is the ability to freeze a moment.”
Speed Lights and Flash (on a sunny day)
- Even from 25-30 feet away it makes a difference
- Fills in shadows
- Enhances light
- Adds another dimension of color (especially for bird feathers)
Tips for Zoo Photography
- Always be aware of your backgrounds (no branches growing from heads)
- Try to shoot aperture priority: keeps the depth of field minimal, blurs background, makes a difference in your animal portrait
- Mesh/Screen/Fence - get as close as you can, create distance between the barrier and the animal, focus on the animal (aperture wide open, manual focus) and the fence will disappear-
- Glass - general principles of physics with light reflections
If you can, remove the flash from the camera and place it off to the side - light will bounce off the glass at an angle, leaving you with a clear shot through the glass
If you can’t remove the flash, shoot from an angle on the side.
- Be there when the zoo opens or late in the afternoon for the best light and more animal activity
*Don’t delete in the field! Your 3” LCD screen is not clear enough or large enough to show you what you’ve got. BUT… don’t hesitate to delete at home, or you’ll end up with hundreds of so-so or bad images that you’ll never use or look at again.*
“Everybody takes bad images. It’s being able to pursue and have the patience to come up with that ONE image that will break the door open for you.”
You can find Ron Magill:
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Peggy Farren is an award winning, professional photographer, instructor, writer and speaker.
With over 17 years as a full-time professional photographer, Peggy offers photography training through her training center, “Understand Photography”.
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