Page 1

Wildlife Photography NEW

6 9 1 pages of

THIRD edition

Digital Edition

expert photo advice

Learn pro skills to improve your animal captures Take spectacular shots in the wild


contents CHAPTER 1

Wildlife Photographer of the Year

8

A celebration of the breathtaking photography in 2017’s Wildlife Photographer of the Year awards

CHAPTER 2

Techniques

16

Discover how to get closer to wild animals, and learn the sharp shooting techniques you’ll need to get stunning pictures once you’re there How to shoot wildlife and nature...............................................18 The ultimate guide to safari photography.................................32

CHAPTER 2

Apprentice

44

Experts in wildlife photography take our apprentices into the field to develop their skills under their guidance African adventure..........................................................................46 Now that’s what I call a stag party!............................................58 Puffin, or Nuffin’.............................................................................68 Go wild..............................................................................................78 A hoot of a shoot............................................................................88

CHAPTER 4

Projects

98

Giving you the chance to put into practice the skills we preach, find 9 projects that will teach you how to photograph everything from the bugs in your back garden to the lions in a local zoo. Here’s how to... Make your zoo shots look natural............................................100 Shoot wide-angle wildlife...........................................................104 Stack your shots for pin-sharp pictures.................................106 Capture garden birds...................................................................112 Photograph deer with a telephoto lens...................................116 Capture birds in flight..................................................................120 Capture bird behaviour..............................................................124 Improve your birds of prey shots.............................................128 Shoot from the ground...............................................................132

CHAPTER 5

Kit Zone

136

Get help buying the best possible kit for all of your wildlife endevours from lenses to hides Full-frame cameras.....................................................................138 Super telephoto zooms.............................................................146 Macro lenses................................................................................154 Help me buy a camouflage hide..............................................162

FREE DOWNLOAD Online resources on page 194

06 Teach yourself wildlife photography


contents

Top tips

The secrets to success Improve your wildlife photography with these 18 practical hints and tips for everything from dew-drenched dragonflies and artistic silhouettes to animals in the snow.

PAGE 166

Teach yourself wildlife photography 07


PART 1

1

YOUR ESSENTIAL gear

10 ways to capture nature

Six essential bits of kit you need for shooting wildlife and nature

TRIPOD

Holding a heavy lens all day is not fun, especially if you’re sitting in a hide. A sturdy tripod with a head designed for a long lens will certainly take the strain, and means you’re ready at a moment’s notice if that illusive animal puts in an appearance. For macro lovers, a flexible tripod that will allow you to shoot at weird angles is also recommended.

by ANDREW JAMES

MACRO LENS

Although your telephoto lens is surprisingly good for photographing plants such as orchids, if you want to be a flora specialist, a true macro lens that gives you 1:1 ratio image reproduction will ensure that even the tiniest plants and insects are within your shooting range.

LONG LENS

You can photograph wildlife with a wide-angle lens, but a telephoto is essential for getting images of shy animals that won’t come close – or dangerous ones you don’t want too close. A telephoto zoom in the 100-400mm range is ideal, giving you both flexibility and reach.

HIDE

If you really want the freedom of the woodland, a portable hide will give you the chance to sit unseen amongst the foliage. Being in a hide means the human shape that scares wary animals is completely invisible, so as long as you stay quiet, you’ll be able to watch your subjects behaving naturally.

2

Get pro kit Track animals in movement

BEANBAG

Whether you’re shooting with a long lens from a vehicle or want to balance a macro lens inches from the ground while photographing a plant, a beanbag provides a perfect support in these tricky situations.

OUTDOOR CLOTHING

It’s trendy for wildlife photographers to wear camouflage; it can certainly help if you are stalking animals, but it’s not always necessary. However, drab clothing that doesn’t rustle is definitely the order of the day. Also opt for waterproof outer clothing.

20 Teach yourself wildlife photography

If you take your wildlife photography seriously, you’ll want a specialist tripod head for your long lens. The Wimberley Gimbal Head V2 holds long lenses steady while you’re waiting for action, and is used by wildlife photographers across the world. Thanks to its design, you can track moving birds and animals fluidly while benefiting from the fact your tripod is taking the weight of your heavy telephoto lens. It’s designed to be used with bulky telephotos, from a 300mm f/2.8 prime upwards.


3

CHOOSE A LOCATION Wildlife success is often about choosing the right location and the perfect time

As the summer reaches its peak, so does activity in the natural world. Seabird species like puffins and gannets are nesting around the UK coast, while all-year-round animals such as deer, squirrels, red kites and kingfishers can be tracked down in the countryside. One of the best places to photograph the fox is in the urban environment, with many major cities such as London and Bristol containing large populations. There are numerous commercial hides where you can pay to sit and wait for visiting kingfishers, red squirrels, osprey and many other species. This kind of hide means that even if your time is relatively short, you can still experience the thrill of seeing and photographing wildlife at close quarters without spending weeks tracking their location down.

The coast... Puffins

PRO TIP IN FLIGHT When you photograph birds in flight, allow your camera to track their approach. but only fire the shutter when they start to half-fill the frame.

Getty / Mike McKenzie

Getty / Stuart Shore

Getty / Richard Bowler

Head to The Farne Islands in Northumberland, Fair Isle in Scotland or Skomer in Pembrokeshire for some summer puffin action. Puffins nest on land each summer, with chick feeding action occurring from the end of June and into July. But don’t leave it too late: the birds head out back to sea once the breeding season is over.

Woodlands... Squirrels

countryside... Hares

Rivers... Kingfishers

The grey squirrel can be found in parks and woodlands across the UK and makes an engaging and relatively tame subject in city parks. The smaller red squirrel still holds out in pockets in places such as Brownsea Island, Dorset, Cumbria and Scotland.

Watch out for a small brown boulder in a farmer’s field that suddenly twitches – it’s probably a brown hare lying low. Larger than a rabbit, the brown hare can be seen hunkered down in shallow hollows and is a great wildlife subject.

One of the UK’s most iconic bird species, the iridescent blue flash of a kingfisher is always a joy to see. They’re not easy to photograph but if you can identify where they’re feeding along a river, a strategically placed perch could tempt them into view.

Teach yourself wildlife photography 21


THE APPRENTICE

HOT SHOT #5 HOT SHOT #6 Lens

Canon EF 500mm f/4L IS II USM

Exposure

1/4000 sec, f/8, ISO800

Top pro gear #4 Shower cap

Lens

Canon EF 600mm f/4L IS II USM

Exposure

1/2500 sec, f/10, ISO1250

Top tip

Speak up “Don’t be afraid to yell to the driver to stop if you see a potential photo opportunity while you’re driving,” says Clint. “Ask them to switch the vehicle’s engine off while you take a photograph, too, to improve your chances of taking a sharp shot. Make sure that you always have your camera switched on and set up so that you can take a shot quickly.” 54 Teach yourself wildlife photography

Prepare for dust when you’re on safari: it gets everywhere. Pack enough cleaning kit to give your gear a going over when you return to base. Caron brought along a supply of shower caps from the lodge to protect the plate-sized front element of her 500mm lens. Naturally you need to make sure it’s secure enough that it doesn’t fly off when you’re belting along in the safari vehicle.


THE APPRENTICE

Caron’s comment On this day, we had to sit for hours with nothing happening before we were fortunate enough to witness thousands of animals making a river crossing directly in front of our vehicle. Most crossings happen between 10am and 3pm, when the sun is at its peak. As a fairskinned Brit, I was certainly thankful to have a roof over my head! Midday light doesn’t always make for the most evocative shots, but here, the strong sidelight helped to enhance the drama and make the spray appear to glow against the dark backdrop. Clint and the other photographers on the vehicle were constantly calling out potential shots among the tangle of animals, as well as suggesting exposure settings.

Clint’s top wildlife shots Clint’s favourite wildlife photographs from game drives in his native South Africa and beyond

Buffalo with oxpecker

Half-face lion

Yellow-billed duck

“The sun was just coming up and shining straight into my lens. I noticed this buffalo was irritated by an oxpecker, so I slowed my shutter speed down and waited for the animal to shake its head. The result has so much going on, from the circular spray of water to the backlit oxpecker and swarm of gnats.”

“This was taken during a night drive in Botswana, where another vehicle’s lights had lit up this pride male from the side. Shooting at ISO3200 and a shutter speed of 1/60 sec, I set my Canon EF 600mm f/4L IS II USM lens’s image stabiliser to Mode 3 to make this almost-impossible shot happen.”

“Shooting just before sunrise provided the deep and rich colours here. In order to avoid burning the whites, I set the EV to -2/3 stop. The faster shutter speed of 1/2500 sec enabled the wings and the droplets to be frozen, while the relatively large f/5.6 aperture produced a beautiful, soft background.” Teach yourself wildlife photography 55


THE APPRENTICE

Harry’s comment As the chicks flitted back and forth between the perches and the windows, I took advantage of the crop factor on the D300s. The D300s has a smaller sensor than a full-frame DSLR, so it records a smaller area of the image captured by the 500mm lens; it effectively functions as a 750mm lens. Elliott told me to isolate the one owl that flew up into the window. I cropped out the window frame around the owl, and I think it looks like a studio portrait. The back of the room is so dark, it really makes the owl stand out. As I was shooting, a draught blew through the window and I stopped. “Keep shooting!” Elliott exclaimed. “It looks different with the downy feathers that are blowing up, and you can tell it’s a chick.”

Top pro gear #2 Gimbal head “When shooting with telephoto lenses, a gimbal head is essential. I’ve seen people try to shoot with these lenses on ball heads but the ball head isn’t strong enough to hold all that weight above the tripod, so it sags. Gimbal heads are great at taking the weight, and allow you to move the lens around with minimal effort.”

Top tip

Cheap trick No talking

There are a few rules to working in a photography hide. These aren’t because some photographers are grumpy; using good etiquette when shooting in a hide ensures more photographic opportunities for everyone who uses it. One of the most important rules of all is ‘No talking’. Sneezing and coughing are acceptable (nobody can help doing either), and talking in hushed tones is fine, but speaking as loudly as you would at home is a big no-no, as you’ll scare away the wildlife.

The background

Some of the most painfully bad wildlife shots are ones where the subject is engaged and doing something exciting, only it’s doing it in front of a very distracting background. While you’re waiting for your subjects to show up, have a good look around and decide which parts of the scene would make the best settings. If you line yourself up in front of a relatively plain background, it’ll be easier to isolate your subject and put emphasis on whatever it’s doing in the frame. 94 Teach yourself wildlife photography

“If you don’t have the budget for a gimbal head and tripod head mounting plate, the cheaper alternative is a bean bag. I use camouflage bags so they’re less noticeable to the birds. Pop a bean bag on a suitable surface, or even over a car window, then rest the lens on it. You’ll have sharper, steadier shots in no time.”


HOT SHOT #3 Lens

Nikon 500mm f/4G ED VR

Exposure

1/50 sec, f/4, ISO800


PROJECTS

Step by step how to capture shots that sing The key camera settings you need to know to ensure you capture beautiful bird shots

Increase the ISO If your shutter speed drops below 1/500 sec, up your ISO setting to increase the camera sensor’s sensitivity to light. This will increase your shutter speed to ensure you can capture the action. The downfall is that the higher the ISO, the more noise your shots will have, impacting picture quality. But then a sharp shot with a bit of grain is much better than a blurred shot, which can’t be rescue.

01 Set aperture Priority

02 Use a fast shutter speed

03 Use fast tracking

04 Customise your buttons

05 Manually select the AF point

06 Try Burst mode

You won’t have time to adjust settings between shots, so set Aperture Priority mode with an aperture of f/4-f/6.3 for a sharp subject while throwing the background into soft focus to isolate it from its surroundings.

Birds are fast-moving creatures, so set your camera’s AF mode to one that tracks them. Once you’ve locked focus onto your subject, this will track them as they move, constantly readjusting the focus until you take a shot.

To ensure the focus is spot-on, manually select the AF point closest to where you want your subject to be in the final shot. This will keep the main subject – the bird – nice and clear in the shot, rather than the background. 114 Teach yourself wildlife photography

In Aperture Priority, your camera will set the shutter speed for a good exposure, but keep an eye on it as you’ll need a fast shutter speed – no slower than 1/500 sec – to freeze the fast movement of the birds.

On most cameras you can customise a button to activate autofocus and disable it from the shutter button, so once you’ve locked focus you can release the button, recompose, then fire a shot without risking refocusing.

To maximise your chances of getting a great shot, set your camera’s Drive mode to High-speed Continuous to fire off a number of shots in quick succession. The frame rate will depend on your camera.


PROJECTS

Essentials Get the right gear For capturing wildlife, you only need a few essentials to get started

01 Telephoto lens

You need a telephoto lens that will keep up with your fast-moving subjects and allow you to shoot from a distance so you don’t scare them off. The focal length required depends on how far away you are from your subject, but 300mm is the minimum.

03 Camouflage

02 Support

Telephoto lenses can soon get heavy as you’re sat around waiting for your subject to appear. A tripod or monopod are good for resting your arms or, if you’re hanging out of a window, a beanbag – or even a jumper – makes a great cheap alternative.

If hiding behind a window or in a shed won’t do, consider a camouflage hide or clothing, available in different patterns to help you blend into your surroundings. If you opt for a hide, make sure it’s easily transportable and quick to assemble.

Garden birds Flying high or going tits up? Six essential dos and don’ts of photographing wild birds in your back garden Things to consider There’s a lot to think about in the short amount of time between your subject landing, feeding and flying off again. We’ve got a few examples to show you what makes a successful shot soar and common mistakes that will leave you feeling like a bit of a bird brain

Harsh lighting

Back off

Busy Background

Shoot in the middle of the day in bright, direct sunlight and your camera may struggle with highlight and shadow contrast.

Capture a side profile for best results. If your subject has its back to you, be patient, as they will often reposition while feeding.

While the idea is to capture your subject in sharp focus, don’t set too narrow an aperture or the background will be distracting.

Side light

Zoom in

Take a perch

Shoot early in the morning or late afternoon/early evening to get gorgeous, soft side lighting that highlights your subjects.

With feeders and branches dotted about it can be difficult to capture clean shots, so zoom in close to crop out distracting details.

Set up a perch, or look for nearby branches where birds land before going to the feeders, as these create more natural-looking shots. Teach yourself wildlife photography 115


KIT ZONE

Canon EOS 6D

Canon EOS 5DS

£1,400/$1,700

£2,800/$3,700

It’s still hanging on in there

An outright winner for megapixels

140 Teach yourself wildlife photography

-10

-5

0

5

10

15

20

Scores closer to zero are better

Colour rendition is a touch on the warm side, and a close match to that of the 5D Mk IV.

SIGNAL-TO-NOISE RATIo 50

Decibels

40 30 20 10

100

400

1,600

6,400

25,600

High-ISO performance is excellent, as reflected by the best lab results here.

DYNAMIC RANGE 14 12 10 8 6

Higher scores are better. Raw results use images converted to TIFF

100

400

1,600

6,400

25,600

Very good dynamic range is another upside of the relatively humble megapixel count.

Verdict Features BUILD & HANDLING performance Value OVERALL

Performance For capturing detail and texture, the 5DS is simply epic. Some of Canon’s own EF lenses didn’t make it onto the approved list for use with this camera, because they’re not sharp enough to do it justice. The trade-off is that high-ISO images are relatively noisy and, in fact, the standard sensitivity range tops out at a lowly ISO 6,400.

SHARPNESS COLOUR ACCURACY higher is better 2.3 -10

-5

0

5

10

15

20

Vibrant yet accurate, colour rendition is marginally cooler than in the other Canons.

SIGNAL-TO-NOISE RATIo 50 40

Decibels

6.3

With its 50.6MP image sensor, the 5DS beats every other current SLR for sheer quantity of megapixels. That’s apart from the 5DS R, of course, which is essentially the same camera without the anti-alias effect in its optical low-pass filter, aiming to retain more fine detail. In our tests, there was practically no difference between the two, making the 5DS better value. The 5DS is virtually identical to the older 5D Mk III in external appearance and handling, which is no bad thing. However, Canon has redesigned the newer body to be more rigid yet slightly lighter, and there’s a new shutter unit that reduces vibrations, helping to avoid any degradation of the camera’s resolving power.

30 20 10

100

400

1,600

6,400

25,600

It’s among the worst cameras on test for high-ISO noise, and the worst Canon.

DYNAMIC RANGE 14

Exposure Value

Performance The modest megapixel count and Digic 5+ processor team up to deliver wonderfully low-noise images throughout an impressively large sensitivity range. Colour rendition is very natural, while auto white balance and metering are consistently reliable. Performance is solid overall, although the maximum burst rate of 4.5fps is a bit pedestrian. Overall, Canon’s budget full-framer is capable of delivering very pleasing results, but is somewhat overdue a revamp.

SHARPNESS COLOUR ACCURACY higher is better

Exposure Value

Now nearly five years old, the 6D is a veteran of the full-frame SLR market. On the plus side, it’s the least expensive camera body on test, gives full access to Canon’s enviable range of EF lenses, and boasts built-in Wi-Fi and GPS, although the latter can quickly drain the battery. However, the 6D has a relatively low 20.2-megapixel count, and its antiquated autofocus system has a paltry 11 AF points, with just one cross-type at the centre. It’s also the only camera on test in which the viewfinder fails to give full coverage of the image frame.

12 10 8 6

Higher scores are better. Raw results use images converted to TIFF

100

400

1,600

6,400

25,600

Good rather than great, dynamic range benefits from the auto lighting optimiser.

Verdict Features BUILD & HANDLING performance Value OVERALL


9000

KIT ZONE

Canon EOS 5D Mark IV

Nikon D750

£3,500/$3,500

£1,600/$2,000 A great Nikon at a bargain price

Performance The autofocus system is brilliant for Live View stills as well as movie capture, available at 4K UHD. High-ISO images are more detailed than from the 6D yet equally noise-free.

5.1 -10

-5

0

5

10

15

20

Scores closer to zero are better

It’s technically not as accurate as the 5DS, but shots have a pleasant slight warmth.

SIGNAL-TO-NOISE RATIo 50

Decibels

40 30 20 10

100

400

1,600

6,400

25,600

Images are pretty much as noise-free as in the 6D, with excellent retention of detail.

DYNAMIC RANGE 14 12 10 8 6

Higher scores are better. Raw results use images converted to TIFF

100

400

1,600

6,400

25,600

The 5D Mk IV delivers the best lab results of any camera on test for dynamic range.

Verdict Features BUILD & HANDLING performance Value OVERALL

The high-resolution attractions of the D810 have been much publicised – but, as is often the case, they come with sacrifices in other areas. For all-round abilities, the D750 has established itself as our favoured Nikon DSLR. It edges ahead of the Canon 6D for megapixel count, at 24MP; is coupled with a lategeneration Expeed 4 processor; and adds dual card slots along with a tilting rear screen. Both cameras have built-in Wi-Fi. Unlike many of Nikon’s current and recent SLRs, the D750 includes an optical low-pass filter, to protect against moiré patterning and false colour. Build quality feels a bit more solid than in the Canon 6D, and the viewfinder gives full 100% frame coverage instead of cutting into the edges. Performance High-ISO image quality is about as noise-free as in the 6D, but the D750’s 51-point autofocus system is streets ahead, and it has a sportier 6.5fps continuous drive speed. Image quality is sumptuous in all respects, and overall performance is spectacular considering the camera’s relatively low price.

SHARPNESS COLOUR ACCURACY higher is better -0.9 -10

-5

0

5

10

15

20

Scores closer to zero are better

Along with the D810, the D750 is closer to perfection than other cameras on test.

SIGNAL-TO-NOISE RATIo 50 40

Decibels

SHARPNESS COLOUR ACCURACY higher is better

Exposure Value

Compromise can be a good thing. The 5D Mk IV strikes an excellent balance between sheer resolving power and great performance in terms of dynamic range and reduced image noise. The 30.4MP image sensor might look a bit low-res compared with most of the cameras on test, but it’s worth bearing in mind that Canon’s top-spec 1D X II only has a 20.2MP sensor, as does the 6D. The 5D Mk IV’s new-generation image sensor enables Dual Pixel Raw bokeh shift and ghosting reduction effects, along with fast Live View autofocus. The metering system and 61-point autofocus module are updated from the 5D Mk III, with all of the AF points supporting f/8 lens-teleconverter combinations. Weather-seals are improved; a new touchscreen speeds you through menu choices; and Wi-Fi, NFC and GPS have all been added.

30 20 10

100

400

1,600

6,400

25,600

Like the Canon 6D, the D750 delivers clean image quality at high ISO settings.

DYNAMIC RANGE 14

Exposure Value

Canon’s newer, faster SLR

12 10 8 6

Higher scores are better. Raw results use images converted to TIFF

100

400

1,600

6,400

25,600

Lab scores fall behind those of some other cameras, but Active D-Lighting is a bonus.

Verdict Features BUILD & HANDLING performance Value OVERALL

Teach yourself wildlife photography 141

Photography Bookazine 1874 (Sampler)  

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Photography Bookazine 1874 (Sampler)  

You can subscribe to this magazine @ www.myfavouritemagazines.co.uk