Wildlife Photography Workshop: Be Ready for the Moments

I am sure you have paged through a photography magazine, looking at the work of some or other professional wildlife photography and thought to yourself , ‘How did he get that shot?’

The answer is actually quite simple:  you have to be ready – always.

In nature things can happen very quickly and sometimes you can consider yourself lucky to see a certain animal or behavior, nevermind actually photographing it.  In order to photograph these moments you have to be ready.  When the action goes down you cannot be struggling with your settings or changing lenses.  The moment will be gone.

Check out a few of these examples.

Image © Gerry van der Walt - Elephant Drinking

A moment like this generally lasts quite a while.  The elephant will drink, stand around, perhaps splash a bit of water around, but generally he’ll be there for a while.  In situations like this, you will have the time to play with your equipment and settings.  Photograph, experiment, and enjoy.

Image © Gerry van der Walt - Diving Kingfisher

An image like this is most definitely a moment, but you can normally predict when to click the shutter.  When a kingfisher is busy diving, he will do so very regularly.  So, if you have the patience to sit and wait, you stand a very good chance of getting the shot.  Yeah, yeah, your equipment and settings do play a par,t but we’ll look at that in a little while.

Image © Gerry van der Walt - Elephant versus Buffalo

As with the kingfisher image above, a scene like this has the potential to produce a photographic moment.  Young elephants tend to be quite possessive of whatever waterhole they find themselves at, so when the herd of buffalo started arriving, I knew there might be something special coming up.  I did not have to wait too long as the young ellie took exception to the buffalo wanting to drink ‘his’ water, and proceeded to chase them all over the place.  Great moment, especially with the dust in the background.

And then you get moments like this.

Unplanned.

Unexpected.

Awesome.

Image © Gerry van der Walt - Charging Lioness

We were sitting watching a pride of lions, including three very young cubs, as the played around in the early morning light.  They started crossing the road in front of us, and suddenly, out of nowhere, this lioness gave us a mock charge.  Impressive stuff, very impressive.  As this happened, I clicked the shutter and captured this moment.  As we arrived at the lion sighting, I checked light and dialed in the settings.  I was hoping for a nice close up portrait of the lioness as she crossed, so I was ready.  Not quite ready for what happened, but photographically, I was ready to click the shutter.

There is so much that can happen out there that it is almost impossible to be ready for everything.  You can, however, put yourself up with a good chance of capturing some amazing moments by having your equipment on ‘standby’ mode.  Every morning before heading out into the field I check all my cameras and place them in ‘standby’ mode.  This is what the basic of my standby mode looks like:

– Camera Mode:  Aperture Priority
– Aperture:  f/8
– ISO:  400

These setting allow me to pretty much grab my camera and fire away.  Depending on my subject, and what I want to do with an image, I can change my aperture up or down with the simple turn of a dial.  It takes a few seconds to get your camera ready before you head out, but when you capture that moment, it is most definitely worth it!

I’ll leave you with one more moment.

Image © Gerry van der Walt - Wildebeest Sunset

This moment was one I had to wait for.  I liked the look and feel of the scene, but I had to wait for the wildebeest to walk into the right position before clicking the shutter.  Patience!

If you have some moments that you have captured, why not take a few moments and upload them to the Bush Warriors Photo of the Day Contest.  Share your moments!

I’ll see you all next week!

Gerry van der Walt

Photo-Africa     Workshops & Photo Safaris

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