The Outdoorsman

Wildlife Photography Tips

More from Outdoor Living Newsletter August Outdoor Living Newsletter
A buffalo grazes in the Gallatin National Forest in SW Montana
Great patience leads to great photos; a buffalo grazes in the Gallatin National Forest in SW Montana

One of the great joys of going on an RV road trip is seeing different wildlife in its environment. But for the novice photographer capturing incredible images of wildlife is about as easy as navigating a Class A motorhome through New York City. So where does the inexperienced photographer begin? We've consulted experts on the subject and have created a list of 9 wildlife photography tips. Follow these and you'll be well on your way to being considered the next Ansel Adams:

1.  Get to Know Your Camera

Modern digital cameras have an astonishing amount of features. But to take advantage of these features you need to be familiar with their functions. What does this mean for you? You need to read the manual to understand the functions, practice using them, then read it again, practice again and so on.

Does the idea of reading a camera manual practically put you to sleep? While there is no substitute for reading the manual there are some ways around it. You can enroll yourself in a photography course or teach yourself with online courses. To find courses you can google "photography course". Another option is to go to your local library or community college - both facilities should have information on local photography courses.

2.  Practice at Home

Before you set out on your big trip, spend some time around the house taking pictures and practicing. For example, if you're interested in photographing birds, photographer Cristina Mittermei suggests setting up a bird feeder in your back yard. This will allow you to observe the birds as they're coming in and the ability to shoot the birds as they arrive at the feeder. Since the birds are flying toward you there will be ample opportunities to practice with your flash and get pictures of birds flying in motion. As you improve you can take these skills out into the field.

3.  Patience + Knowledge = Great Photos

If you want to be a great wildlife shooter you have to be willing to spend a lot of time with the animals you're photographing and learn their behaviour. For example, if you are familiar with swans you know that after a swan "preens" itself it will typically stretch its feathers. With this knowledge, you will increase your chances of snapping a dramatic picture.

4.  Follow the Subject

Following doesn't mean stalking! Whatever you're trying to capture, stay with your subject until it has exhausted any photo opportunities or gone out of sight. Many professional photographers note that some of their best pictures have come when they were about to give up on the subject.

5.  Keep Both Eyes Open

When taking photos keep both of your eyes open. Why, you ask? If you have one eye closed when shooting you are limiting your field of vision, and are therefore more likely to miss any action. Conversely, when you have both eyes open you increase the chances of picking up on any action - and getting the perfect shot.

6.  Shoot in the Best Light

The best time to photograph animals is during the hours immediately after sunrise and just before sunset. These are known as the "golden hours" and the light that is given off during these hours enhance the beauty of your image.

7.  Conceive the Image Before You Shoot

If you are photographing still images take a picture in your mind's eye of what you want to include in your photo. This will give you a visual frame for which to focus your camera.

8.  Get Low

Try to keep (physically) low. A shot can be much more effective if it's from a similar eye level to the subject your shooting rather than at a downwards angle.

9.  Get as Close to Your Subject as Possible

Birds and other animals are not easy to get close to, however there are ways of getting close without disrupting them. To get close, approach slowly and quietly with your camera and lens in the ready to shoot mode. Many photographers note that the best way to get close to a bird is to lie on the ground and scoot yourself toward the bird. When you have a good shot, fill your frame (with the bird) as much as possible. However, always keep a safe distance from dangerous wildlife.

Photography is an art that requires time, patience, dedication, and a willingness to learn. As any road tripper knows, opportunities abound for wonderful pictures on every trip. And it is for this reason that it is so vital to take the time to learn how to operate your camera to create wonderful photos - through these photos you'll be able to re-live the greatest moments of your trip for years. So get out into your backyard, get that bird feeder, and start snapping away! You won't regret it.

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