Archive for photography methods

Bush Warriors Wildlife Photography Workshop: Learn from Technology

Posted in Wildlife Photography Workshop with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 4, 2011 by photoafrica

With today’s camera technology, it is too easy to get caught up in all the settings and buttons.

I see it all too often.  We are out in the field, a great photographic opportunity presents itself, and then some people are struggling with settings and–you guessed it–they miss the shot.

Don’t get me wrong.  Technology is great and it has definitely changed the way we photograph wildlife and nature, but if you make the technology your focus, you will not create better images.

It is your artistic approach, your vision, which will allow you to take better images with the use of the wonderful technology available to us.

So, with that being said, let’s use technology to teach us something about the artistic side of wildlife photography.

Apart from running Photo-Africa, I also manage a safari lodge in the Madikwe Game Reserve in South Africa.  I recently started putting up camera traps around the waterhole and we have been getting the most amazing results.

I have no idea what the settings on these basic cameras are, but they take the most amazing photos, and all of this purely because something walked in front of it.

Here are a few of the images I have been able to get off the camera traps and a few lessons you can take from it to improve your own wildlife photography.

Learning from Technology - Image by Gerry van der Walt
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Bush Warriors Wildlife Photography Workshop: Are You Stuck?

Posted in Wildlife Photography Workshop with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 26, 2011 by photoafrica

Hi all,

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. Continue reading

Bush Warriors Wildlife Photography Workshop: Capturing That Special Moment

Posted in Wildlife Photography Workshop with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 12, 2011 by photoafrica

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.

Image © Grant Marcus 2011

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.

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Bush Warriors Wildlife Photography Workshop: ‘Decisions and Choices’ with Grant Marcus

Posted in Wildlife Photography Workshop with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 4, 2011 by photoafrica

Please welcome our guest pro photographer, Mr. Grant Marcus!

‘Decisions and Choices’ with 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.

Image © Grant Marcus Continue reading

Bush Warriors Wildlife Photography Workshop: Don’t Be Afraid to Push Your ISO

Posted in Photo of the Day, Wildlife Photography Workshop with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 29, 2011 by photoafrica

Hi everybody,

I’m back from an absolutely amazing trip to the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park.  The Kgalagadi is an arid park situated in the northwestern parts of South Africa and extends into both Botswana and Namibia.  There is a lot of space, sand, and silence, and makes for one of the most special and unique wildlife and nature destinations I have ever visited.  One thing that makes it special is the fact that there is no cellular signal or internet, which is why I could not do a post last week.  Hey, we all need a break every now and then.  This is where we stayed.

Image © Gerry van der Walt 2011

Beautiful hey?  Anyway, I’m back and apart from a huge amount of new images I also had a lot of time to think about and reassess my own way of approaching wildlife photography.  You see, too many if us fall into a rut and keep on producing the same type of images again and again.  Others of us get so caught up in the technical side of the craft that we end up producing technically superb, but cold and lifeless images.  In the coming week, we will be looking at many of these pitfalls and how you can make sure you keep on growing as a wildlife photographer, but for today I wanted to have a look at ISO.

ISO, as you know, refers to your cameras light gathering ability.  A low ISO, such as 200, means that your camera is not as sensitive to light and you need good, strong light on your subject to create quality images.  This is where a lot of people get stuck, but more on that in a second.  A high ISO, such as 1600, means that your camera is a lot more sensitive to light and that you can shoot in lower light conditions but then there is an increase in digital noise, or grain, in your images.

For quite some time, many people have avoided shooting at high ISO settings like the plague!  The thought of having even a small amount of noise in your image is just completely unacceptable!  Or is it?

With higher ISO settings comes faster shutter speed.  This is because the higher ISO allows the camera’s sensor to capture a lot more light.  A faster shutter speed, in wildlife photography, means you freeze more of the movement and you get sharper images.

I know of too many photographers that always use the lowest possible ISO settings and then have to use very challenging shutter speeds to try and freeze the action.  Why?  Rather push the ISO up a bit and use a faster shutter speed.  The noise reduction of programs like Lightroom is so advanced these days that you could easily fix things up afterwards.  Worst case scenario: you have a slightly noisy, grainy image. In the old days, it was a part of what we did!

I always used try and keep my ISO as low as possible and never wanted to go above 200, but this I have changed.  Here is a breakdown of my ISO setting from the two cameras I used on the Kgalagadi trip.

Gerry - ISO Details

You can see that a lot of my images were taken at around ISO 500.  Also, depending on the camera, I sometimes went as high as ISO 1600.  This is one of the images I shot at a high ISO.

Image © Gerry van der Walt 2011

The early morning light on the Black-Backed Jackal was amazing, but not strong enough for me to use a low ISO setting.  I pushed my ISO up to 1600, which then gave me a fast enough shutter speed—in this case 1/200—to get a nice, crisp image.

The following image was also taken at ISO 1600 and was where the little jackal above was heading to.

Image © Gerry van der Walt 2011

Awesome, early morning sightings and if I was stuck on never using high ISO settings, I would not have gotten the images.  Even zoomed in to 100% the noise levels are acceptable and with a bit of love in Lightroom, I was able to get the image perfectly crisp, sharp and virtually noise free.

The following image was taken at an ISO of 800, as the overcast light was nice and soft but not too bright.

Image © Gerry van der Walt 2011

The juvenile Gabar Goshawk was trying to get a little warm spot and hide from the weather.  I was able to get a great, crisp image of him even with the soft light.

The last exmaple, below, was shot at ISO 500.

Image © Gerry van der Walt 2011

Flat on my stomach, I spent an entire morning photographing the ground squirrels at one of the camps we stayed at.  I decided on an ISO of 500 as they kept on moving into and out of the shade.  In the shade, the ISO helped me to get a fast enough shutter speed to freeze the action and in the light I was still quite happy with the ISO.  If I were to keep on changing up and down I would have missed some of the shots!

So, I guess the bottom line is… don’t be afraid to push your ISO.  Yeah, yeah, some cameras deal with high ISO better than others, but rather get the shot and deal with a bot of noise rather than miss it completely!

Get out there this weekend, push your ISO and challenge the fading light.  This is, after all, the time when wildlife seems to be at its most active!  When you are all done, make sure to upload some of your images to the Bush Warriors Photo of the Day Contest to share with all of us. 🙂

If you are keen on some more images from the Kgalagadi, I will be posting some of them to the Photo-Africa blog by the end of the day.

Keep shooting and I’ll see you next week.

Gerry van der Walt

Gerry van der Walt

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Bush Warriors Wildlife Photography Workshop: You Have To Work It!

Posted in Wildlife Photography Workshop with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 14, 2011 by photoafrica

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!

Leopard - Image © Gerry van der Walt 2011

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!

 

Leopard - Image © Gerry van der Walt 2011

Crossing the road, the young male made for a great backlit image.

 

Leopard - Image © Gerry van der Walt 2011

An over-the-shoulder look makes for a great animal portrait!

 

Leopard - Image © Gerry van der Walt 2011

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

Click here to see ALL of the Bush Warriors Wildlife Photography Workshops!

Gerry van der Walt

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Bush Warriors Wildlife Photography Workshop: You Can Photograph Wildlife in the Rain!

Posted in Wildlife Photography Workshop with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 7, 2011 by photoafrica

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!

Rain.

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.

Image © Gerry van der Walt

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.

Image © Gerry van der Walt

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.

Image © Gerry van der Walt

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!

Image © Gerry van der Walt

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

Gerry van der Walt

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