Wildlife Photography Tips Part Two

It has taken a little longer than I wanted, but I finally got around to writing this second article on photographing wildlife. The writer in me is still struggling to get out, wants to keep hiding and do more interesting stuff like taking photographs rather than write about it. Let’s get started and see where it leads. If you would like to read the previous part, please see this link.

PLWLT-Part-II-Photo-01-600lb-Black-Bear-Copyright-Robert-J-Andersen

1) Do you have what it takes?

Wildlife photography can be so rewarding and so frustrating at the same time. It can be a challenge of patience and persistence and all those wonderful photos you see from wildlife photographers around the world took time and effort to get. What a photographer usually shows you on their website or portfolio is the best of their work, a hundred or so photos, sometimes more. What you don’t see is the amount of time it took them to get those photos or what they had to go through or just how many attempts were involved before they got what they were happy with. The featured photo of this article is of a huge wet 500lb black bear taken in New Hampshire, where I live. Let’s talk about that photo for a bit as it relates to this topic of “do you have what it takes”. I have lived in northern NH for five years and it is a place known to have many black bears, yet they are the ghost of the woods, the animal that hardly ever shows itself to you and a male that got to be this big is very aware and cautious. So I have been trying and trying for years to get really good black bear stuff, success in Yellowstone but not at home. It was a little frustrating to say the least, but I kept plugging away, got some keepers but nothing spectacular. Then this year (2014), things fell in place and all of a sudden I got a couple of beauties, photos that make my heart pound faster and take my breath away, the kind of photos that drive me through this crazy passion of getting great wildlife photos. This black bear (photo above and below) is as big as they get for a black bear and a rare opportunity here in New Hampshire, so all my years of hoping and trying finally paid off.

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How to Focus Stack Images

For most people who just want to have some fun with their photography and have another ‘trick up their sleeve’ focus stacking can be an interesting technique to explore. To put this article in proper context, I’ve never used focus stacking for any of my client work, and I don’t profess to be an expert at the technique…but I have experimented with it. The following image is a quick focus stacking example I put together for this article. It was composed from 11 separate exposures. It’s far from perfect, but it does represent a typical result that most hobbyists can easily achieve.

Image Stack

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How to Photograph Interior Domes of Popular Landmarks

Incredibly, the first domes date back to people living in the Mediterranean region 4,000 years BC. Since then, artists have created a fascinating variety of them all over the world. Still today, they are an essential part of modern architecture, as shown for example by Calatrava’s spectacular glass dome of the library of the Institute of Law in Zurich, Switzerland.

Unfortunately, most domes do not get the attention they really deserve. One reason is that many buildings, especially churches, are not well illuminated and the works of art can hardly be seen in the semidarkness. Another reason is that some domes, particularly those from the Renaissance and Baroque periods, are crowned by a lantern with separate windows which cause sharp contrasts. Furthermore, in bigger domes the details are far away from the observer on the ground, making it virtually impossible to study the subtle details of paintings. Finally – no surprise! – domes are located above you and looking upwards becomes strenuous for the cervical spine soon. The photographic technique described below helps to overcome some of these difficulties.

Praha Kreuzherrenkirche

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Wildlife Photography as a Career

If I was to be completely honest about encouraging people about setting out on a career in wildlife photography, I feel these days I could sum it up in two words. ‘Forget it!’ Having said that, I do not take rejection of article ideas well, I am poor at self-promotion and I am not brilliant at keeping my agents supplied with my latest images. Finally, I do not keep up to date with all of the latest camera bodies which produce superior image quality compared to the old Canon EOS 1D Mk2 I am still using for my wildlife pictures and the Canon EOS 5D Mk2 that I use for landscapes.

Gentoo Penguin

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How to Photograph a Rainbow

Rainbows are rare in nature, because a number of events have to happen at the same time. First, there has to be moisture in the sky, so a rainy day or a quick rainstorm is the first pre-requisite. Second, the sun must be positioned on the horizon at a low angle, around 42 degrees relative to the viewer. Third, the part of the sky where the sun is must be clear from clouds and obstructions, while the part of the sky where the rainbow will appear must have continuous rain / moisture. When all of these conditions are met, the sun rays will refract and reflect off the water droplets in the sky, creating the optical illusion that we refer to as “rainbow”. When you see a rainbow, it is only natural to want to capture it on your camera. Who wouldn’t want to capture such beauty that contains the full color spectrum visible to our eyes? And if you happen to be at the right place, rainbows could make an ordinary subject appear truly extraordinary. Even a boring scene could be turned into something completely different with a full arc of a rainbow.

Full Rainbow

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How to Photograph Clouds

Nature often rewards us with incredible opportunities for photographing sunrises, sunsets and sun rays piercing through the clouds, creating stunning views. As a landscape photographer, I tend to wait for partly cloudy and stormy days, because clouds make photographs appear much more dramatic and vivid. Without clouds, sunrises and sunsets often look boring, forcing us to cut out the sky and focus on foreground elements instead. In contrast, if you get to witness a sunrise or a sunset with puffy, stormy clouds that are lit up from underneath with colorful sun rays, creating a fiery view, including the clouds in your photographs would make the scene appear much more colorful and alive. In fact, clouds can be so beautiful, that they could become the main element of composition in your photographs. In this article, I will not only talk about the process of photographing clouds, but also will focus on making clouds appear much more dynamic and dramatic in your photographs.

Mt Rainier Lenticular Cloud

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Shooting Flowers and Foliage with Telephoto Lenses

My wife is an avid gardener and for more years than I can remember, I have accompanied her on a wide range of garden tours and other such outings. While gardening is of little interest to me per se, I do find some enjoyment in capturing images of flowers and foliage. And, on the odd occasion I have shot videos of private and public gardens.

Thomas Stirr Flower Photography (1)

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Shooting with Natural Light

People often ask me about my post-processing when they look over my photography. To be honest, the post-process I’ve developed has been a combination of small tutorials I’ve taken over the years from artists I respect. I’ve since developed my own style from these tools, but the most important part of post-processing is having an image that will take it on well. In this article, I will be talking less about the post-process and more about how to utilize natural light. In order for proper digital development, the shot has to be versatile for the final result.

Do you want something dark and soft? Do you want something bright and warm? These are just a few questions to ask yourself when setting up a portrait session.

The greatest joy for me, as a photographer, is utilizing light to produce a moving image. This can come in any number of forms, from the smallest single strand of light against a face or a subject in a field mid-afternoon. It’s imperative to train the eye to the spectrum of natural light. The only way to do so is to shoot constantly.

Screenshot

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How to Organize Photos in Lightroom

Lightroom has become a very essential part of the workflow process for many photographers, including myself. I cannot imagine managing my photo catalog without Lightroom and I use it every day for my photography needs. In fact, 95-98% of my post-processing work is done in Lightroom and I only occasionally use Photoshop for advanced photo editing / retouching, which not only simplifies my workflow, but also decreases the amount of time I spend on post-processing. Over the past few years of using Lightroom extensively, I have come up with efficient ways to store, organize and access photos on my computer, so I wanted to share a few tips with our readers on how I do it for both personal and professional work. Although there are many ways to organize images, this particular method has been working great for me (and many others that have been reading our site for the past few years). If you are looking for a generic guide on doing this without any third party photo software like Lightroom, then please read my older article on “how to properly organize pictures“.

1) Where do you store your pictures and how?

The first question is, where and how do you currently store your pictures? I used to store all of my photographs in various subfolders of my hard drive (commonly in “My Pictures” or “My Documents”), but after I got into photography, I decided that it was best to keep all of my photographs in the root folder of my PC’s hard drive that I use solely for storing photos and small family videos. Hard drives are really cheap nowadays, so creating a properly organized and redundant storage for your photography needs does not have to cost an arm and a leg.

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Post-Processing Pains

Over the last several years operating this site, I have been incredibly lucky to meet many talented photographers from all over the world. Some I met face to face (whether in my workshops or other gatherings / conferences), while others I met and interacted with online. One interesting pattern that I noticed in the majority of photographers, and I am talking about the ones that understand light, composition and proper technique, is that they often lack the key component of completing the image and making it successful – post-processing skills. It turns out that most of us spend our time learning our gear and how to take good pictures, but we fail to take that beautifully captured photograph to the next level and make it look amazing by enhancing it further in post-processing. Yes, camera technique, light and composition are all extremely important and those are certainly key ingredients that each of us needs to learn and eventually master, but we need to understand that a captured photograph is just the beginning of making the image. What happens to the photograph after it is taken, is as important as the process of capturing it. I have seen many photos that would have looked breathtaking, had the person put some extra effort into making it work. Even worse, I have seen so many examples of great photos that get slaughtered by very poor post-processing techniques and ugly presets.

Dead Horse Point Sunrise

How many times have you seen an overdone HDR, over-saturated, over-sharpened, over-contrasted, over-recovered, over-preset, over-insert-any-photoshop-term-here mess? Unfortunately, I have seen too many. The worst examples are what I call “forced photos”, where the photographer takes a terrible image and thinks that it can look better when post-processed. So much time and effort is spent on making a terrible photo look absolutely horrendous. How do I know? Because I have done it many times myself.

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