Top tips for wildlife photography from preparation, equipment, ethics and creative composition ideas. Bill Cox talks about wind direction, how to track the animals and prepare to capture amazing wildlife photography.
Equipment, Ethics and Tips for Wildlife Photography
Episode 108 with Bill Cox
“If you just depend on the camera, all you’re getting is average images. If you want great images, you have to really work at it.”
- Bill is an ecologist and teacher. He teaches animal behavior and tracking techniques.
- He is a consultant for land and water management and conservation groups.
- As a wildlife photographer, he specializes in threatened or endangered species.
- He regularly writes nature articles for a group of magazines in Southwest Florida. (Times of The Islands – TOTI, and Florida Country)
“It takes decades to learn wildlife ecology and photography. You have to understand behavior, habitat, where to find them, when to find them, and how to set up for them.”
Tips for Wildlife Photography
- Do your homework. Learn about your subject.
– Check trails for tracks, droppings, or scrapings.
** If you find bear or panther tracks with young, DON’T FOLLOW THEM! Mothers are VERY protective of their young. Don’t put yourself or the animals in any danger.**
– Know the animal’s boundaries and how far you should stay away from them.
– Try to anticipate the peak of the action by watching behaviors.
- Bring a spotter/friend.
– As a photographer, your primary focus is your camera and what you see through the lens.
– A spotter can be more aware of the surroundings and point out subjects you may not be aware of.
– When photographing more dangerous subjects such as snakes or alligators, a spotter is necessary for your protection.
- Add interest to your images.
– Use color to make your images pop. Find a colorful subject, foreground, or background.
– Shoot through things.
– Blur the foreground or background.
– Use basic art and composition concepts.
– leading lines – shapes -diagonal lines – S & C curves – lighting
- MOVE! Get high, get low, take pictures from different angles, tilt your camera.
- Keep the wind in your face to prevent your scent from announcing your presence.
- Get permission when photographing on private land.
“No photograph is worth destroying a nest or killing the young.”
Wildlife Photography Ethics
- Do not disturb.
- Don’t chase birds to get in-flight images. Many birds have traveled thousands of miles to reach this location and need to conserve their energy to continue their migration.
- Stay out of cordoned off areas. Nests in these areas are very fragile.
- Many birds will abandon their nest and brood entirely if your scent is anywhere near their territory.
- Do not feed wildlife! Tossing breadcrumbs to attract birds may seem fun, but this can attract gulls to the nests, eggs, and young of other birds.
- Stay back – use a telephoto lens.
- Be courteous to others and the wildlife. Do not destroy any habitats.
Always keep a camera on hand – even a point and shoot.
- Light Pack (Scouting)
- 1 camera body
- Lenses: 70-200mm, 16-35mm, 11-24mm
- Serious Pack (In a wagon)
- 1 or 2 camera bodies (Bill uses a Canon 1DX and 5D Mark IV )
- Multiple lenses, teleconverter (Favorite lens is Canon 100-400mm )
- Heavy Tripod
- Electronic Shutter Release
- Pop-up Blind
- Can be set up a day or two in advance (after scouting for just the right location).
- Conceals your movement.
- Get permission to set up from the landowner or park official.
Shoot in RAW, continuous drive mode.
Watch your histogram, highlight alerts and white balance.
Try using techniques such as focus stacking, image blending, bracketing and HDR.
– Favorite software – Helicon Focus (about $200)
FWC.org (Fish and Wildlife Commission)
Google life histories, behaviors.
Talk to knowledgeable people. (Pritchett’s Eagle Cam)
Find locations of animals on maps or atlases – be sure it can be accessed, get permission if land is privately owned.
Understand Photography General Notes
Not sure if it’s for you? Watch our free video. What you need to learn for a solid photography education:
Ladies Only Trips:
Cuba – February 2 – 9, 2019
Everglades 4 day Photo Adventure – January 31 – February 3, 2019 Email if you’d like to be put on the waiting list.
St. Augustine – April 11-14, 2019
Florida’s Forgotten Coast – May 13-17, 2019
New Book! Peggy Farren and Joe Fitzpatrick have published a book highlighting Florida’s best photo spots!
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