Photographing wildlife is a richly rewarding venture. But, it requires a few skills and attitudes that many other forms of photography don't mandate. What does that mean? And how can you improve your wildlife photography? Here are 4 tips from the pros.
Patience is key to getting the best shots of any wild animals. They almost never appear on cue, so you must be willing to wait it out, return multiple times, and travel to where they are. This means that a vacation for wildlife photography isn't a quick stopover or something you plan in the midst of other activities. You may want to devote several days to the same area, staying in a nearby hotel that allows you to return to wildlife hot spots many times.
Learn About the Animals
Wildlife has its own routines, and to capture animals going about their lives in places that humans can capture them on film requires understanding where they will be and when. It requires understanding how to approach mule deer from a downwind angle and what camouflage clothing to wear. It may call for knowing when wild elk run so you can capture exciting encounters. And it could mean trekking out before sunrise to capture cottontail rabbits as they emerge to forage for food. Spend some time researching whatever animals you hope to see. If heading out on a vacation, talk to locals at your hotel to find out where the best spots are to catch local wildlife.
Get Some Gear
Obviously, you'll need a quality camera that you can trek into the woods or fields with. A telephoto lens--preferably with a 300mm to 600mm range--is a must, since getting too close to most animals will either scare them off or put you in harm's way. If you'll be doing a lot of hiking to reach a migration area or watering hole, you may want to purchase a teleconverter that weighs less and is a lot less bulky than its lens equivalent. Be sure to bring a tripod if possible, or learn how to use your camera gear and clothing to form makeshift tripod supports for your camera.
Don't focus solely on one type of shot as you move around through wildlife areas. Those wonderful close-ups of animals like cougars or alligators make wonderful photos, but so can a wider angle that captures an entire flock of birds or the rugged vastness of mountain life. Learn to adjust your focus between microphotography and macrophotography so you don't miss out on anything. Be on the lookout for any wildlife and nature going on around you, from the smallest of insects marching along the path to the largest of carnivores meandering through the trees to the most spectacular of sunrises coming over the horizon.
While it may take some time to get wildlife photography right, the result will be amazing pictures that will bring pleasure to you and everyone who sees them for years to come.