In this in-depth Wildlife Photography Tutorial, we put together some of the best material we have published to date on photographing wildlife. Most of the information comes from myself (Robert Andersen), but a few extra tips are shared by other talented PL team members like Tom Redd. Instead of creating separate articles on each topic, we thought it would be a good idea to compile everything into a single piece, so that our readers could get the best out of it and have a chance to follow the material in a logical progression. This tutorial is a work in progress and we will be adding more sections in the future, so make sure to bookmark it in your browser!
I got my Nikon D5 a week and a half ago and have been itching to try it out on some real world wildlife photography, but this time of year is tough for wildlife where I live and also the weather here has been insanely difficult the last week or so. This has really hampered my chances to try and get some photos with this new camera.
I never intended for it to be this long between the two articles, but life got in the way. I have been busy with trying to sell our photography at various fairs and craft shows, when you have a day job as well it ends up taking up all your spare time. I don’t like disclaimers or fine print, but here is mine: “What I do, works for me, the information here is designed to be honest from my perspective and maybe useful to some readers. Take from it what you can and find your own path along the way…”
I am getting a little nervous writing articles, seems like it puts a target on your forehead for criticism, some just, some un-warranted. So let me start this article by telling you what I am intending to convey in this article and that is the following: I took a 12 day wildlife trip (self-organized) to Alaska to photograph moose, I have done many self-organized wildlife trips before to other places. When I do these trips, what do I bring and why do I bring it? This is what I bring and what I do, and it works well for me, take from it what might be useful to you and leave behind whatever you find non-informative. After many small trips to shoot wildlife, we have developed a bit of a standard packing and gear list we bring. It changes slightly depending on the trip, but generally we bring three bags, two are camera gear, one is clothes :)
If you have read any of my previous articles, then you would know I have two Nikkor super telephoto lenses and I often use them in wildlife photography. I also often mention that reach is important in wildlife photography and getting highly detailed and crisp images. Two of the super telephoto lenses I have are the 600mm f/4 prime and the 800mm f/5.6 prime and they are amazing lenses that give me amazing reach for wildlife, but this reach can also be a problem when multiple eyes are involved (ie: several animals in same frame).
Lets take a look at a nightmare photo to get with a 600mm lens at optimal distance requiring minimal cropping:
This will just be a short article with my very first photograph taken with this wonderful lens and my first impressions. I have the 600mm f/4G VR and it has been an amazing lens for me and wildlife photography. I was worried when I bought the new lens as I really was in love with the old one and wasn’t sure if the new one would be as good. Obviously, I can’t evaluate and determine that in one day – I wish I could, but here is what I can share so far with you guys and gals.
Have you ever wanted to do something a little different with your photographs? Not stop with the simple click of the shutter and turn it into an actual digital painting? That is what I am going to teach you in this article. I know not everybody is a painter and while painting skills would be beneficial, you really don’t need to be an artist to do this. The photo below is the result of me using Corel Painter to turn one of my photos into a digital painting. This tutorial contains some creative ideas and methods a photographer can use, even if they are not artistically inclined or have access to the same software as me. The idea is to open your mind to the possibility of using your images in an artistic manner. I am using a bird in this tutorial, but it could be a pet, your friend, a family portrait or anything else.
For whatever reason most of the wildlife photography I do ends up being in less than desirable conditions. Its rare that I get that perfect light, with the animal perfectly posed and the weather just right and me in the right place and time to capture it. A lot of times I am in the right place, but all the other elements needed seem like they are on the extreme limits of what is needed for quality photography. I recently had the opportunity to photograph black bears here in New Hampshire and one thing that a person not from NH must understand is that this is not like going to Yellowstone or some similar place where the bears are more receptive to humans. Here in NH they are the ghosts of the woods, the animal you never hear while hiking or rarely see unless its by accident and then its for seconds before they disappear. I was able to use both the D800 and D4s during this time and I found out some disappointing things about the D800 which has me regretting purchasing it.
There is a lesson here for all, especially when purchasing expensive gear. Expensive is a relative term with a value that varies per individual and can’t be generalized, the stuff being said here applies to all values of items. It comes down to how much value the item has to you and whether you are willing to risk that value versus the warranty programs being offered. Obviously the bigger the expense, the higher the risk.
Before everybody kills me about hand-holding, I just have to say this – I was doing some personal testing / photography and wanted to see what this combination could do for me. So please be kind to me :) Let me be clear, the Nikon D4 is a dream camera and I loved that camera to death. I got the D4s, because a friend wanted my D4, so this deal worked out for both of us. Upon purchase, I found it hard to believe the D4 could be improved upon and it’s still too early for me to make a conclusion on that, as I have only had the camera for 2 days. I feel there is an improvement in ISO noise at higher levels, however, the new focusing system got me interested in this camera and today’s trip to the coast to shoot some owls was all about giving me a feel for what was possible. I hand-held this combination a lot today, because I tend to do that when shooting and I wanted to know if I could do it with the 800mm and also get a feel for the D4s abilities. Anyway, here are some real world shots from me, good or bad, it was awesome fun and I got some shots I am very happy with.