Bush Warriors Wildlife Photography Workshop
June 27th , 2011: Questions to ask yourself when photographing wildlife
This week I chat about questions to ask yourself when photographing
wildlife. By asking yourself these questions you will start thinking
about your photography and (hopefully) start taking better wildlife
images. I also look at programs to use for post-processing and do a quick
review of the Gura Gear Kiboko camera bag.
If you have any questions or topics you would like me to chat about in
upcoming weeks please don;t hesitate to contact me!
Gerry van der Walt
March 25, 2011: Are You Stuck?
After a few weeks it’s good to be back!
As I was sitting thinking what I should write about for this blog I kept on coming back to one thought. What is it that gets us inspired to photograph wildlife? What is it that makes us click the shutter?
After running a wildlife photography workshop last week I wrote this blog post on my site. The bottom line is that you should never decide before hand, like some people do, as to whether you are going to get good images or not. Get out there and give it a bash first before giving up.
So to pick up on that, what can you do when you get stuck? When you are out there and you just cannot seem to create good images?
Hey, I wish I had a definitive answer, but due to the nature of wildlife photography, that’s almost impossible. I do think, however, that there are ways that you can approach your own wildlife photography to keep things fresh and to keep you inspired.
Here are a few thoughts I came up with, and images I shot, during our workshops last weekend.
We’ve mentioned this one before. All too often, in wildlife photography,we get stuck on zooming in and getting closer. It pays to sometimes take a few seconds to step back, look at and appreciate the scene, and then photograph what you see with a wider lens.
When you are getting frustrated and you just cannot seem to find anything worthwhile to photograph, stop trying to force the issue. Look around for simple, unique things that catch your eye and create a…well…simple photograph. They work!
Looking around, even when out photographing, is something we sometimes forget to do. By taking a few moments to look behind, underneath, and around you, you will find that there are images everywhere. This little Terrapin was floating in the water underneath the hide we were photographing form. Cute little guy.
Hurry Up and Wait
Often we are too impatient when photographing wildlife. We find a subject, take a few pics, and move one. By slowing down and watching for a while, you will be surprised at the images you will be able to get. A few seconds earlier, this image would have been just another bird sitting on a branch.
We always get told we can only create good images just after sunrise and just before sunset. No chance. Simply keep shooting and you will be surprised at what you can come up with!
If you go and search around the internet you will find thousands of ideas an tips to help you create better images. These can sometimes over-complicate things, which just leads to you becoming even less inspired.
Keep things simple, keep an open mind, and you will find that can create better images simply by enjoying the experience!
When you go out photographing nature this weekend, try some of these tips and then come and upload your images to the Bush Warriors Photo of the Day Contest for all of us to see!
Until next time,
Gerry van der Walt
March 11, 2011: Capturing That Special Moment
Every wildlife photographer aims to capture that special moment or once-in-a-life-time moment. You need to spend a lot of hours out in the field to get that special shot.
Knowing the behavior of the animals, can also make or break your shot. I am a guide in Madikwe Game Reserve and we spend at least 8 hours a day out in the bush. Let me tell you, LUCK is also a very important aspect. I believe that you need to spend time with your subject because when that special moment arrives, it only lasts for a few seconds or minutes–if you are lucky. With the patience, you also need to know your equipment to make the shot work.
When you are ready to take the shot, composition and placement are very important. Do not be afraid to leave space for the animal to move in to. By doing that it gives your image life and meaning. Remember that the opportunity to capture the image will be there at the present, but it won’t be there tomorrow. So, make the most of it! Try different approaches to your shot, as well. Reflections in water always make for stunning photography. Composing your shot with the main subject left out, but visible in the reflection, works well too.
The worst thing that can possibly happen to your shot is parts getting cut off, like the tip of this Swainson’s Spur Fowl’s wings:
He was perched on a branch with a perfect light, and the background was clean as well. We could get really close to him. Normally, they fly off when they see the vehicle. So, this was quite special. Here are some things to take into consideration when you go out looking for that special moment:
- Light (early morning or late afternoon)
- Background (cleanliness and color)
- Your position with your subject (if you are on safari with a guide don’t be afraid to ask him/her to position you where you want to be)
- Know your equipment
- Try different approaches
Next time you go out in the field, try these things. If you have any questions or want to chat about different approaches in wildlife photography, feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org
March 4, 2011: Decisions and Choices with Grant Marcus
It has been hectic busy at Photo-Africa. So much so, that I have not had the chance to get around to posting on the Bush Warriors site!
With a lot of very exciting things in the pipeline I am happy to be back. Some of the projects I will be finalizing in the next few weeks will not only increase the services offered by Photo-Africa, but it will also make the posts on Bush Warriors a lot more interesting! As they say… watch this space!
For now, and while I am busy wrapping things up on my side, I am very pleased to announce that a wonderful photographer and great friend of mine will be helping with the photography posts on Bush Warriors.
So with that, and until next time, please join Grant Marcus for his guest post: Decisions and Choices.
I’ll see you soon!
* * *
Decisions and Choices – by Grant Marcus
So often we sit with decisions in wildlife photography that can either work or bomb out completely. Especially when you have an opportunity to capture something rare or unique. It normally happens at the worst time of day, early morning and late, late afternoon. That is where you need to know your equipment. Post-processing plays an enormous role in the outcome of your image especially if you worked in bad light.
These lion images were shot just after 6:00 a.m. in the morning. Normally, I wouldn’t even bother shooting them in this light, but the situation, the scene ,and the opportunity to capture something unique was there and I had to take it. In wildlife photography you only get maybe one chance to get that unique shot of a species. We all know that lions swimming and playing in water is, in itself, a unique opportunity.
In light like this, you need to push up your ISO quite a bit, in all the images I used between 2000-2500 ISO. There were noise, but you can change some of it in Lightroom and Photoshop, as long as you shoot in RAW. An increased ISO also helps you to capture movement better. With the movement of the big cats I kept my aperture between f/3.5 to f/5.
100-400 ISO: Good light during the day.
400-3200 ISO: When you need a faster shutter speed and when the light is not sufficient, or when you have overcast weather.
If your subject is fairly static keep your aperture as low as possible, like f/2.8, to create the depth of field needed to make your image stand out.
The ‘Rule of Thirds’ is perhaps the most important rule of composition, especially in wildlife.
You must always try to apply the ROT regardless your focal length. With these lions running around, it was very difficult to give the cats space in the frame to run into. Try and split the scene in thirds–two horizontal and two vertical lines. When you look through the viewfinder, try and put the focal point in any four sections where the lines cross each other. That immediately creates visual impact in your shot.
What I want to say through this is, if you have an opportunity to capture something unique in a difficult situation, take it and know your equipment. Don’t put your camera down and think the light is bad. Take the shot and post process it! Remember, when you sit with that decision or choice, don’t look back and say, “I should have taken that shot!”
January 14, 2011: You Have to Work It!
You have to work every sighting that you get! That’s how you are going to get memorable, striking wildlife images.
All too often, I see people on safari aim their camera at a subject, take a few shots, and move one. Afterwards they always complain that the resulting images are not what they hoped for.
The remedy, and I’ll say it again, is that you have to work each sighting !
Never stop looking for different angles, facial expressions, light. Wildlife can, and normally will, be quite unpredictable and therein lies both the challenge and possibilities.
Unpredictable means you have to always be ready or you will miss the shot. On the flip side, it can also mean that you have the opportunity to get different images of the same subject. Nice!
Two days ago, on one of our photo safaris, we found a leopard next to the road. Initially, he was quite comfortable in the long grass and we weren’t expecting too much. But then he started moving around and we started working the sighting!
The start of our sighting… A standard leopard image with the spotted cat moving through the grass. We could have stopped here, but after getting the shot, there was a lot more photography to come!
Crossing the road, the young male made for a great backlit image.
An over-the-shoulder look makes for a great animal portrait!
Even as the leopard walked away, we did not stop shooting!
Whatever your subject, always wait a while. Check things out, watch the light change and the animal move around. Try different lenses, try different aperture, try anything— as long as you work the sighting! There are images everywhere, as long as you are willing to spend the time and work the sighting!
As I write this, I am sitting in the car on my way to the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park for a bit of a working holiday. Don’t you just love technology? Lots of photography and some good time with friends.
As always, keep sharing your images on the Bush Warriors Photo of the Day contest and remember…
You have to work it!
Until next time!
Gerry van der Walt
January 7, 2011: You Can Photograph Wildlife in the Rain!
Let me start off by wishing you all the very best for the New Year. I hope that you had an amazing festive season with family and friends and that you are ready to get 2011 underway!
Normally not something associated with wildlife photography, but—and this is one of my own photographic goals for 2011—breaking out of your comfort zone is one of the best ways to move your photography into a new direction.
During the last few weeks, the Madikwe Game Reserve, where I am based, has been getting a huge amount of rain. Instead of putting my camera gear away like I normally would do, I decided to go into the rain, clouds, and varying light conditions that can occur during an African rainstorm. The results have been great, both from a image and mindset point of view.
It is so easy to get caught up in a rut and keep on photographing the same image over and over again, whether you realize it or not. You have to make a choice to try something different and you have to not worry about the results. Sounds strange right? Not worry about the results?
It is when you head out into the wild, with no preconceived ideas of what you want shoot, that you will be free to shoot what catches your eye. You can shoot what excites you!
Here are a few of the images I was able to shoot during the last few weeks. I did not plan any of these shots. I simply went out there, whether rain or shine, and photographed scenes that excited me.
This young lion was very annoyed with all the rain and kept on shaking the water off him. Seeing the pattern, we got ready, composed our images and waited. As the youngster started shaking the shutters clicked like crazy. The result? An awesome action shot that I could never have planned for.
Yeah, it’s a wildebeest. When you go out into the wild you tend to see a lot of them. The difference on this particular morning was the light. The morning started off very overcast and dull, but as we sat watching some general game on an open plain, the clouds opened up for a few minutes. They opened up just long enough for me to fire a few frames and this was the resulting image. Plain and simple image of a very often overlooked subject but it’s all about the light. Cloudy days can make for the most amazing wildlife photography.
A vulture in a dead tree must be one of the most often shot silhouettes in the wild. Is that a reason not to click the shutter again? Absolutely not. The dark clouds in the background made for a nice sombre atmosphere, to mimic the mood set by my subject. Sometimes plain and simple is still great!
Under normal circumstances I would never have even attempted to photograph this scene. It was very far away and there was no major composition to speak of, but the weather changed everything. We were sitting on a dam wall and the heavens opened up. The rain came down so hard that we could barely even see the giraffes in the distance. I pushed up the ISO to 3200 and used a beanbag to keep my camera still. Click. Success! Normally, I would not even have thought about photographing this scene, but I’m glad I did.
After all of that I suppose you get the idea, but just in case, here are a few lessons that I took from my last few weeks and that could help to break you out of a photographic rut.
– Don’t go out there with too many preconceived ideas. Let your eyes guide you.
– Don’t pack your camera gear away when the clouds start building. There are a lot of ways you can keep your gear dry and still get the shots.
– Don’t worry about the results. Just go out there and enjoy yourself!
– Don’t look at everything through your camera’s viewfinder. Put the camera down every now and then, look at the scenes and subjects around you, and then shoot what excites you!
As this year get going, think of ways in which you can change the way you photograph nature and wildlife. Ways you can improve your images. Ways in which you can find new inspiration for photography!
I wish you a year of great sightings, awesome light and many shared moments online. Don’t forget to submit them to the Bush Warriors Photo of the Day Contest! If you have any questions or comments that you would like to share please feel free to either leave a comment or contact me directly.
Until next week!
Gerry van der Walt
December 17, 2010: Hope for the Future!
Only two weeks left in 2010! It really is amazing how quickly time goes by.
With this, the last photography post for the year, I wanted to look back at the past year and also start looking ahead to 2011. This year saw the Bush Warriors Photo of the Day grow in leaps and bounds and it has been amazing to follow along and see all the images that people have uploaded.
Apart from the obvious visual beauty of the wildlife and nature image there is a larger issue that we need to be aware of and, if at all possible, hold on to and grow even more in future.
Every time anybody shares an image of animals in the wild they are creating an awareness.
Every time anybody shares an image of a natural landscape they are showcasing the beauty of our natural world.
The reality is, and this is looking past the atrocious rhino massacre we have seen during the last year, that the animals and places we photograph and share might not be there for ever. Human greed is unfortunately destroying our natural heritage and, if we do not do anything about it, the only thing we will have left one day are the images of a lost world. A place we used to visit.
Now, go and take a look at some of the images that have been uploaded to the Bush Warriors Photo of the Day contest. These images show the natural world we all love. It shows that there are many, many people out there that care enough about nature that they create images of its subjects and landscapes. These images, and all the other ones we share in books, magazines, and on the internet will stand the test of time!
So, looking back at 2010 I would like to applaud all of you who have taken the time to not only photograph nature but, and this is almost more important, share those images. After all, why create photographs if you are not going to share them with people. Whether you intend it or not, you are helping to create a visual celebration of the fragile beauty that is nature.
Since we are almost at the end of the year, and most of you are on holiday, here is a list of wildlife photographers who share their work on a regular basis and serve as amazing ambassadors for wildlife photography. Check out their work for inspiration or just to marvel at the beauty of nature!
What does next year hold for wildlife photogrpahy?
Who knows. What we can be sure of that many people, like the photographers mentioned above, will keep on pushing the boundaries. They will keep on producing images that inspire and make us all want to grab our cameras and head out into the wild places of the world.
I also believe that photographic safaris will keep on growing in popularity. These safaris give you the opportunity to, not only shoot alongside a professional wildlife photographer, but to go to the most amazing destinations, while being presented with the best photo opportunities anywhere. To that end, next year will see a few interesting partnerships take place so make sure to watch this space! What? Did someone say Bush Warriors Photo Safaris? Like I said, watch this space!
On that note I am going to say goodbye and wish you all the very best for the holidays!
This festive season I wish you the tenderness of the past, courage for the present, and hope for the future!
See you all in 2011 and rememeber to keep those shutters clicking!
November 27, 2010: Slow it Down
If you follow my blog, you will have seen this image.
(Nikon D300, Nikon 80-400 @ 320mm, 1/5 sec, f/11, ISO 320)
I have had quite a few requests, from people wanting to try this techinque, asking… How?
So here goes…
First off, in order to get a sharp image you need to make sure that your shutter speed is as least 1/your focal length. This means that at focal length (zoom) of 50mm you should have a shutter speed of at least 1/50 sec and at a focal length of 200 you should have a shutter speed of at least 1/200 sec.
Got it? Good.
Now in order to create motion blur images, like the one above, you need to break that rule and select a shutter speed that is way slower than you would normally use. As a guideline, you can start with a shutter speed of 1/10 and then slow it down from there if necessary.
With shots like this, your aperture is not important as your background, which will normally be affected by the aperture, is going to be blurred anyway.
Now, once you have your slow shutter speed you are ready to start. The idea, and ultimate goal, is to focus on your moving subject, click the shutter and follow along with their movement. Objects moving from one side to the other in front of you will give you the best results.
To get the image above I had to give it a few goes, as I never quite got the zebra’s head sharp. By doing this you will give your viewer a starting point in the image, as our eyes will always start on the sharpest point, and then the motion blur will tell the story of your moving subject.
The slower your shutter speed the more dramatic your background will be but the more difficult it is to get the subject’s head (and shoulders) in focus.
Go and give it a bash this weekend! Motion blur images are great fun and will add a whole new dimension to your low light photography. Then, when you are done, add a few of then to the Bush Warriors Photo of the Day site to share with all of us!
If you have any questions please leave a comment on this post and I will get back to you!
See you next week!
Gerry van der Walt
November 26, 2010: Show the Beauty
If you look around bookstores and the internet, you are bound to find quite a bit of black and white wildlife photography.
It’s easy to see why.
By removing color from an image, especially with a wild subject, we cut through all the emotion and distractions. You see a world of textures and shapes. You see the real subject.
Black and white photography also brings with it a sense of the past. A sense of nostalgia. It reminds us of a bygone era or, if things keep going like it is, a species that we used to see in the wild places of Africa.
As of 14 November 2010, 285 of these amazing animals have been poached in South Africa this year.
That means that one rhino gets killed every 27.5 hours.
One rhino… every 27.5 hours!
As wildlife photographers, I feel it is our duty and privilege to photograph these amazing animals, not only to show the beauty of these ancient-looking members of Africa’s Big 5, but also to raise awareness. We must show the beauty that is being destroyed all around us. Our images might soon be all that is left of an amazing animal.
For me, black and white images show the real subject and brings emotion. It shows what we have now. Let’s try, and hope, that we can keep it that way.
If you have any images of rhino why not share them on the Bush Warriors Photo of the Day facebook page.
Let’s show the beauty of the animal, the beauty of nature. Let’s show the fragile nature of an animal we will hopefully see in the wild places of Africa for a long time to come!
Yeah, not our normal wildlife photography post but I have just returned to the Madikwe Game Reserve where I manage a lodge and the reality of the rhino poaching hits home hard after being away for a few weeks.
Share your images. Show the beauty!
I’ll be back next week with a, hopefully, more upbeat post!
Gerry van der Walt
November 19, 2010: Go Wide
What piece of photo equipment do you think of when someone mentions wildlife photography?
Yeah, a weapon sized telephoto zoom lens.
If you own one of theses lenses, with a focal length of more than 300mm, you will know that you can create some amazing wildlife images by bringing your subject closer but, and this is a very big but, it can make you lazy.
The reality is that with a big zoom lens composing your images can be a lot easier because it becomes easy to remove distracting elements of your images. Look at the example below.
By using a focal length of 500mm I was able to get nice and ‘close’ to the Springbok and remove an distracting elements. There is no doubt as to what I want my viewer to look at.
This is all fine and well but to really tell a story with your images you need to put your subject in it’s natural environment by using a wider angle. The image below was taken a little earlier when the Springbok was looking for some shade under the lonely tree.
Also a great image but it shows a lot more of the environment.
The bottom line?
Falling into a run and always using the same lens will not help you improve as a photographer. You need to keep mixing things up to keep growing and getting better!
Don’t be lazy. Don’t always zoom in and use your big lenses.
Grab that wide angle lens, include the landscape and environment in your images and create different wildlife images.
When you next head out in to the field try different things. Try different compositions. Keep on looking for different angles and then upload your results to the Bush Warriors Photo of the Day Contest.
See you next week.
Gerry van der Walt
November 12, 2010: 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
November5, 2010: Check Your LCD
What is the best thing about digital cameras?
Easy answer – the LCD screen!
No, really. The ability to see the image you just created is something that not enough people use. I am not even referring to the histogram, which we will cover in future posts, but just the ability to see the image.
Look at the following example.
Not a bad image.
But something is missing…
It makes the image pop and come alive. It gives a slightly flat image a more dynamic feeling.
It might be a very small thing but when you start taking your photography serious you will find that it is the small details that can make the difference between a good and a great image.
The above two images are a part of a series of about 8 images I shot specifically with the intention of including the tongue in the image. I knew from experience that including the tongue of a drinking animal lifts the image to the next level, so after every couple of frames I would check the LCD screen to see if I nailed the shot.
In the days when we were still shooting film this was impossible and you would have to wait to see if you captured the moment. That precise moment.
Here is another example.
The bottom image is the shot I wanted, even though I would have liked the big guy to open his eyes a little more.
The top image was the result of me just aiming and shooting. I was convinced that the lion’s eyes were open when I clicked the shutter but when I checked my LCD I saw that he closed them at that precise moment. It’s amazing how often wildlife subjects subjects seem to do that! 🙂
So, what is the bottom line?
Always check your LCD screen before deciding whether you have your shot. Just because of that, digital rocks!
I’m off to Bangkok for a few days, but I’ll be back again next week!
Get out there, photograph wildlife, check your LCD and then post your images to the Bush Warriors Photo of the Day contest.
See ya next week.
Gerry van der Walt
October 29, 2010: A Story in Three Parts
Watching other people’s home movies and pictures from their holiday can, at times, be quite an ordeal.
The same can be said for looking at other people’s images from a recent safari.
An image like this might remind you of the amazing leopard sighting you had when you were in the bush, but… your friends and family might not share your enthusiasm for this amazing sighting if the image does not really convey the spectacle you witnessed.
So what can you do?
Since wildlife photography is about telling a story, do it in threes.
By doing this, and presenting your work in threes, you will be able to much better share the beauty of the amazing sightings you had when you were out in the wild. This will also help your family follow the stories you have to tell about your amazing adventures in Africa, or elsewhere.
So how does it work?
For every sighting try and take three images. These images will, step by step, get your viewer closer to the subject and allow you to tell a more complete story.
The first image should set the scene and place the subject in it’s natural environment.
The second image should be the ‘main course’ and the image you actually want to show.
The last image is there to show a little bit of detail as you end your story.
Make sense? Here is my story.
On a partly overcast morning, we were following a lioness through the bush. It seemed as if she was looking for something. As the sun broke through the clouds, she ended up in a thicket where she proceeded to look around some more, before settling in to sleep the day away. Every now and then she would lift her head to look around, all the time breathing quite heavily, as by now the clouds had disappeared and the summer heat was setting in.
Now, there is no way I can show all of that in one image while I tell the story to all the family members I have forced to sit down in the lounge and ‘appreciate’ my images.
The answer? Tell your story in three!
If you are heading out into nature this weekend, look for stories. Shoot them in threes. Show them to your friends and remember to also upload a few to the Bush Warriors Photo of the Day Contest!
See you next week!
Gerry van der Walt
Please vote for Bush Warriors’ three projects to receive Free Range Studio’s youtopia grants. Click here to vote now!
October 22, 2010: Warm It Up, Cool It Down
After some technical issues last week, here goes with the latest Bush Warriors Wildlife Photography Workshop.
Today we’ll be looking at white balance which, to many photographers, is one of the most difficult concepts to understand. Now, it’s all fine and well to go through all the technical details, but I believe it is way more important to understand how changing your white balance settings can influence your images.
Before we look at some examples, a quick look at what white balance actually is.
The short version is this: white balance is the process through which your camera ‘sees’ white under different lighting conditions. Think about it this way… If you were to take a piece of white paper and look at in bright sunlight, overcast conditions and under a fluorescent light you will perceive the piece of paper to still be white. Why? Because your brain knows that the paper is white and makes automatic adjustments to compensate for the different types of light.
Your camera is not capable of ‘thinking’ about the type of light you are shooting in and this is where setting your white balance can make a huge difference to your images. That being said, some of today’s cameras are getting quite good at measuring and determining light but it is still not as good as human eyes.
Some of the settings on your camera will warm an image up, or add orange tones, while other settings will cool an image down, or add blue tones. Check out these three examples where each image includes the symbol for the White Balance setting that was used.
This sunset was photographed on Auto White Balance (AWB). This is how the camera ‘sees’ the scene which, let’s be honest, is not too bad. The ‘AWB’ did quite a good job on this one.
If I wanted more oranges, and warm tones, in the scene I could set my White Balance to ‘Cloudy’. This will make the camera think that we are shooting in overcast light and it will increase the warmth and oranges in the images.
See the slight difference? The oranges are noticeably darker and more saturated leaving a more moody image.
On the other side of the scale, if I wanted to cool the image down by pushing my blues I could set my White Balance to ‘Tungsten’.
Huge difference! The camera now cooled the image down quite a bit leaving a very moody result.
By playing around with the above three settings you can create amazing sunsets and sunrises. Try these two scenarios which works wonderfully!
- When you are shooting the very last bit of orange light, set your White Balance to ‘Cloudy’ to give your oranges a little more punch.
- When you are shooting early morning, especially over water, set your White Balance to ‘Tungsten’ for a cool, early morning feel.
Now that’s all fine and well, but what about wildlife subjects? Can you use White Balance when photographing Africa’s large mammals?
Check out the following example.
I photographed this male lion a few weeks ago. The sun had just dropped below the horizon which left the scene lacking contrast and color, and for this particular image my White Balance was set on ‘AWB’.
To warm this image up I could, and you have to try this as it works beautifully, set my White Balance to ‘Cloudy’ which will increase the oranges and warm tones in the image. For this example, I simply changed my White Balance to ‘Cloudy’ during post processing to show the result but changing your White Balance out in the field gives the exact same result!
Another huge difference! The camera added the warm, orange tones leaving quite a pleasing image.
Remember this tip: when you are looking at your subject through the viewfinder and the entire scene is in the shade, set your camera to ‘Cloudy’ White Balance to give the colors a bit of punch.
This is not cheating at all. You are simply using the tools at your disposal, your camera, to it’s fullest extent to create striking wildlife images. Photography is an art and the better you understand the technical side of your equipment, the better equipped you will be to create great images – no matter what light you are shooting in!
When you are next out in the field try playing with different White Balance settings. You will be amazed at some of the results. Once you have tried playing with your White Balance setting, remember to add some of your images to the Bush Warriors Photo of the Day Contest.
Have a great weekend!
Gerry van der Walt
October 8, 2010: Size Matters
Do you know how big an elephant is?
What about a lion cub?
Finding the answers to these questions is a whole lot eaier than conveying the size of your subject in a single photograph.
Take a look at this example of a three month old lion cub.
Cute little guy but can you tell from the image how big he actually is? Not really.
In order to convey size in you wildlife images it always help to include another subject for your viewers to use as a comparison. Apart from being a great compositional tool, this approach will generally help you to create more interesting images.
Here is our same lion cub a few minutes later. This time his size, or lack thereof, becomes a bit more apparent.
Compared to the dead elephant’s feet we can now see that this guy still has a lot of growing to do.
Here is another example of how you could convey size in an image.
Even though the focus of this image is on the wildebeest in front, it is the giraffe legs behind him that tells the story.
You don’t always have to use different species to show size differences in your images. In the following example a close up of a young elephant in the middle of the group tells the story of size.
Small hey? 🙂
When you are next out photographing wildlife, think of ways in which you can convey size. Use different species. Use the same species. Even use another game drive vehicle.
If you have any wildlife images that show the size of the subject why not upload them to the Bush Warriors Photo of the Day? Show us what you are photographing!
Have a great weekend!
Gerry van der Walt
October 1, 2010: Don’t Cut It Off
Last week, we started looking at some basic compositional guidelines which will help you to improve your wildlife photography.
Picking up from there, today we going to have a look at one of the most common mistakes people make when photographing wild subjects. Whether it is due to the excitement of the moment or they just do not know better, many people cut pieces off their subjects.
Sounds strange yeah?
Let me use examples to explain a little better. Have a look at the following image.
Not a bad lion image but there is one big distraction. Whether you know it or not, your mind will always pick up on it.
Yeah, the foot has been cut off. Now compare it to the following version of the same image.
Much better hey? You get the full picture.
Here is another example.
Nice sighting. Great light. Workable background.
If only the elephant’s feet were not cut off.
The only way in which you can rectify this common mistake is to take note of it when you are looking at your subject through the viewfinder. If possible, always rather leave a little bit of extra room around your subject to make sure that you get the full picture. If necessary you can always crop off the empty space afterwards.
Having said all of that, there are most definitely times when you can, and will, cut some of your subject off. During these times you should try and cut them off at one of the major joints. The knee, the middle or the neck. In both examples above, the subject was cut off in between major joints leaving it looking a bit strange. A little distracting.
By cutting your subject off at some of the major joints you can create striking, powerful wildlife images.
By cutting off this elephant at his middle, I have created an image where there is no distracting elements (such as half a foot or knee) and there is no doubt as to where I want my viewer to focus.
Here is one more example.
I chose to cut this young lion on the neck. By doing this I kept the focus on the youngsters face and eliminated any distracting elements. Also, going back to last week’s post, there is lots of empty space for the cub to look into.
By getting into a habit of checking your composition just before clicking the shutter you can markably improve your images, all of these posts, and others you find on the internet, is purely intended as guidelines. That’s the great thing about photography!
Go out there and enjoy!
See you next week.
Gerry van der Walt
September 24, 2010: Leave Some Space
You will read about the rule of thirds and other guidelines which are all aimed at helping you take better pictures. In the coming weeks we will look at these compositional guidelines in a whole lot more detail but for now let’s look at space.
In wildlife photography, wild animals need space to move into. They need space to look into.
When I am out in the field with new photographers, all too often they place their subject dead centre in the frame. On every frame.
There are most definitely times when you want to place your subject in the middle of your image but not all the time. Here are a few examples.
The Brown Hyena’s face has been placed in the middle of the frame. The important thing to take note of is open space on the left of the animal. This negative space is important as it leaves room for the animals to move into and makes for a much more dynamic image.
Try this, take your hand, or a piece of paper, and place it directly to the left of the hyena’s face. By doing this, and cutting out all of the negative space, you can see how it changes the look and feel of the image.
Here is another example.
As with the Brown Hyena, the little bird has been placed almost in the middle of the frame but there is a lot of space for it to look into.
In both the above examples you can almost not help but following the invisible line that gets created by the direction the animals is moving or looking in and the moment you get your viewer’s eyes moving around your image you have created a good image. A good visual story.
Now there are definitely times when you want to cut down on the space you leave for your subjects.
When you cage your subject, by not leaving any negative space for it to move into, it makes the images a little more ‘tense’.
By going in tight on the more dangerous you can create rather interesting images. Look at the example below.
This image would not have been half as powerful if the spider was placed in one corner with a lot of space around it. In this case, the lack of space around the subject enhances the ‘danger’.
When you are out photographing wildlife take a second and thing about how space, or the lack thereof, can impact your images!
As time goes on we will be looking at many different approaches to wildlife photography. If, however, you have any specific questions or you would like me to discuss a certain approach , whether technical or artistic, please feel free to contact me at email@example.com
Have a great weekend and see you next week.
Gerry van der Walt
September 17, 2010: Eye Contact
Welcome to the first edition of Wildlife Photography Workshop on Bush Warriors.
Apart from sharing images which will, hopefully, create an awareness of Africa’s natural heritage, this weekly post will also give you short tips, tricks and some inspiration that you can use to better your own wildlife images.
At the best of time, wildlife photography requires quite a bit of luck but by focusing on some basic, and other not so basic, techniques you can be sure that when you are faced with a potentially great wildlife image you will be ready to capture the beauty that is Africa.
To kick things off, this week the focus is on eye contact.
I am not referring to catchlight, the little specular highlights in an animals eyes which make the image come alive, but rather direct eye contact from your subject. Don’t ignore catchlight though! It is one of the most powerful tools you have when creating wildlife images but for now let’s look at direct eye contact.
Take the following image for example.
A big male lion walking directly towards us.
Beautiful animal? Absolutely.
But can you feel that in the image? Nah, doubt it.
Now take this image, taken of the same animal a few seconds before.
Quite a different feel to this one.
The difference that eye contact makes to a wildlife image , especially if your subject is one of the more dangerous species, is invaluable.
So, what is the lesson in all of this?
Well, in order to capture that magical eye contact you might need to wait for your subject.
When you look at the work of professional wildlife photographers rememeber that they did not just arrive at a sighting, click the shutter to create an award winning image and move on. It takes patience to create striking wildlife images with eye contact and, if you are lucky, some catchlight.
And, as a bonus, you will get to enjoy nature at the same time!
Until next week!
Gerry van der Walt
Here at Bush Warriors, we receive many comments about how wonderful the photos are in our Bush Warriors Photo of the Day Contest, and often receive emails and messages asking how one can perfect their wildlife photography skills and talents. This great interest in our Photo of the Day has prompted us to partner up with Gerry van der Walt in launching a new initiative for our Bush Warriors wildlife photographers!
Photo credit: Gerry van der Walt
Gerry is highly skilled, very talented, experienced photographer with many years of experience in wildlife photography. He has his own photo safari company, called Photo-Africa, and believes photography is about capturing the moment and telling a story with a single image. He says, “It’s about seeing light, texture, composition, emotion. Ultimately your equipment is not as important as having vision – being able to see the image even before clicking the shutter.”
Gerry van der Walt
Each week Gerry will bring you a new tip that will enable you to capture the best wildlife photographs possible. Noting each week’s tips and advice, you should be able to see your skills improving as we go along. Gerry’s advice and tips will focus on Africa, his specialty, but can be applied to any animal, anywhere in the world.
Photo credit: Gerry van der Walt
We are very excited to bring you “KILLER Wildlife Photography Tips”! We hope that you will enjoy this weekly feature, put the tips into practice, and share your photos with our Facebook group: Bush Warriors Photo of the Day Contest. Wildlife photography is a fantastic way to appreciate nature and foster conservation… Have fun and ENJOY!
Dori and The Bush Warriors Clan