Last week, in the series How I Shot My Summer Vacation, professional photographer Tim Fraser taught us how to take crisp and clear water pictures. This week, for his final instalment, he shares tips on capturing wildlife.
Wildlife photography doesn’t have to mean venturing into unknown realms to snap pictures of a bear and her cubs snatching salmon from the water. Sure, it sounds adventurous, but it’s dangerous if you’re inexperienced. Instead, consider this: Capturing nature on camera can be as simple as hanging around the back yard or on a quiet beach, watching bees pollinate, birds feed or a rascally chipmunk annoy my wife… (I call him “Chippy”).
The truth is that nature is all around us, every day, but we fail to stop to look at what is already familiar. The more familiar you are with an environment, the more familiar that environment is with you – and generally, when they get used to you, nature's creatures will go about their business whether you're there or not. Which is why you need to make the wildlife you want to photograph comfortable with your presence.
Not only that, you need to do your homework: Birders research what they’re shooting to attract them with certain types of seed, or using suet on a tree, to attract woodpeckers and other birds. It’s helpful to know something about the behaviour of the animal you want to capture.
But all that won’t be enough. Wildlife is skittish and jittery – you need to be far enough away you won’t disturb the natural goings on. And to be that far, you’ll need a camera or lens that can see up-close from far away. I usually suggest something that has, at the very least, a focal length of 200 millimetres, but a focal length of 300-400mm is, for me, the status quo (costly, but worth it). And stay way from using something on your camera called “digital zoom.” While it brings you closer to your subject, it does so at the expense of image quality.
Once you’re set up, it’s time to play the waiting game. Pick a spot as close as you dare to shoot without disturbing things, and get ready to wait and watch with your camera at the ready. The picture you want may happen in five minutes or in five hours, but at all times you'll need to be attentive and patient. And whether the moment comes or not, you'll have spent some time in nature, hopefully appreciating it in a way you hadn’t before.
To share your vacation wildlife photos, and to see last week’s gallery, go to tgam.ca/photo-desk. Our favourite wildlife shot will be published on Friday (preference will be given to photos taken during the week of the call-out) on the Pictures & Prophecies page in Globe Life.