Archive for photography methods

Wildlife Photography Workshop: Go Wide

Posted in Wildlife Photography Workshop with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 19, 2010 by photoafrica

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.

Image by Gerry van der Walt - Springbok

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.

Image by Gerry van der Walt - Springbok

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

Photo-Africa

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Wildlife Photography Workshop: Be Ready for the Moments

Posted in Wildlife Photography Workshop with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 12, 2010 by photoafrica

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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Wildlife Photography Workshop: Check Your LCD

Posted in Wildlife Photography Workshop with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 5, 2010 by photoafrica

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.

Image © Gerry van der Walt

Not a bad image.

Nice detail.

Interesting light.

But something is missing…

Image © Gerry van der Walt

The tongue!

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.

Image © Gerry van der Walt

Image © Gerry van der Walt

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

Photo-Africa

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Bush Warriors Wildlife Photography Workshop: A Story in Three Parts

Posted in Wildlife Photography Workshop with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 29, 2010 by photoafrica

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.

Image © Gerry van der Walt

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!

Image © Gerry van der Walt

Image © Gerry van der Walt

Image © Gerry van der Walt

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

Photo-Africa

Please vote for Bush Warriors’ three projects to receive Free Range Studio’s youtopia grants.  Click here to vote now! 

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Bush Warriors Wildlife Photography Workshop: Warm It Up, Cool It Down

Posted in Wildlife Photography Workshop with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 22, 2010 by photoafrica

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.

Image © Gerry van der Walt

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.

Image © Gerry van der Walt

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’.

Image © Gerry van der Walt

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?

Absolutely!

Check out the following example.

Image © Gerry van der Walt

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!

Image © Gerry van der Walt

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

Photo-Africa

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