The seasons are changing, the air is growing crisper, and the leaves are turning beautiful shades of orange, red and brown: it’s the perfect time for connecting with nature! Walking in the woods, exploring the banks of rivers and lakes, or even venturing into your local park can open up your eyes to the wonders of the natural world around us. Here are a few tips to help you capture amazing wildlife in your photography!
Begin Close to Home
The thought of venturing off the beaten path and capturing a breath-taking shot of a rare animal is alluring, but starting small and photographing the more familiar animals around us will give you a great basis of knowledge that you can build on to hone your skills and get you ready for more elusive wildlife. Head to your local park, ponds and lakes where you’ll find plenty of animals such as squirrels and waterfowl to study and photograph, for photos that are stunning in their own right!
Research Your Chosen Area
Scouting your location and knowing your terrain is crucial for successful wildlife photography. Take advantage of local knowledge and find out what kinds of animals inhabit the area, and plan accordingly. It’s also useful to know of any bodies of water in the area, as animals will visit these places to drink and bathe. When you arrive at your location, have a walk around, looking for evidence of burrows, tracks and droppings to help you identify a good place to set up and shoot. The time of day is important too- early morning and dusk are both prime times for sighting many types of wildlife, as well as being the golden hours of the day- the best light for photography!
Learn Animal Behaviours
Just like people, animals are creatures of habit. Instinct compels them to follow a pattern of behaviours that if you take time to learn, will increase your likelihood of being able to photograph them substantially. Once you know what animals inhabit your shooting location, read up on when they are most active, and learn some useful facts about them to prepare accordingly. Don’t be afraid to observe for a while, as you may see animals returning to the same areas time and again. Be prepared for the unexpected too, as incredible moments can come and go in a flash!
Get Close to the Ground
When you’ve chosen your shooting location, its important to be as inconspicuous as possible to avoid scaring any potential photo subject away. A great way to do this is to find an area with foliage and terrain you can use to get a pleasing composition, and get close to the ground. This is also a great way to play with perspective. Viewing your subject from eye level or below will help create a sense of scale and majesty, particularly with larger wildlife.
Prepare to Shoot at Different Distances
Even when everything else has been perfectly planned, the one thing you can’t account for is how close the wildlife will be in relation to you, so it’s important to have a few different lenses to get good images for wildlife near and far. A 200mm–500mm lens is a good choice for shooting far away wildlife, but have a selection with you so you are prepared for closer ranging wildlife.
A few quick tips and ideas
- Patience is key! Top wildlife photographers are sometimes on location all day waiting for the right moment, so stick with it and don’t be discouraged if you don’t get the results you want right away.
- Animals of all kinds are preparing for winter. Head to woodlands, forests and hedgerows for your best chance of photographing foraging wildlife.
- Use as high a shutter speed as the light will allow to capture action shots like running animals or bird in flight.
- October is the best month of the year for spotting owls and deer, which both make amazing subjects for photography. It’s also your last chance to photograph bats, hedgehogs and dormice before they go into hibernation, so take advantage of the rest of the month if you want to catch them on camera!
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