Wildlife Photography – Rule Number 8 – Avoid flash – use a flash-light!

Wildlife Photography – Rule Number 8 – Avoid flash – use a flash-light!

I do not like flash pictures. They are mostly flat and have no depth. In wildlife photography you have seldom the time for good flash setup (with multiple flashes). I’d rather use higher ISO and try my luck without a flash. A standard, handheld flash-light can help producing a glint in the eye of an animal and lighten up a dark corner.

Leopard Girl!
Small female Leopard at Londolozi Private Game Reserve, South Africa

Wildlife Photography – Basic Rule Number 7 – Get down there!

Wildlife Photography – Basic Rule Number 7 – Get down there!

If you want tension in your pictures you need to get on eye level of your subject or even below. I find myself often laying flat on the floor when shooting in zoos. Many exhibits are below the observer. Good for observing, bad for photography!

Eye Level!
Corn Snake or Red Rat Snake (Pantherophis guttatus) from a private collection. Nashville, Tennessee, USA

Pictures of the Week 51 – I love bamboo :-)

This weeks’ picture is of a female Red Panda at Nashville Zoo at Grassmere, Nashville, Tennessee, USA

To review all 2011 pictures of the week go to http://www.sperka.biz/potw2011/slideshow

More Red Panda pictures at www.sperka.biz/redpanda

About Red Panda

The Red Panda (Ailurus fulgens) is a small arboreal mammal native to the eastern Himalayas and southwestern China. It is the only species of the genus Ailurus. Slightly larger than a domestic cat, it has reddish-brown fur, a long, shaggy tail, and a waddling gait due to its shorter front legs. It feeds mainly on bamboo, but is omnivorous and may also eat eggs, birds, insects, and small mammals. It is a solitary animal, mainly active from dusk to dawn.

The taxonomic classification of the red panda has been controversial since it was discovered. French zoologist Frédéric Cuvier initially described the Red Panda in 1825, and classified it as a close relative of the Raccoon (Procyonidae). At various times it has been placed in Procyonidae, Ursidae (Bears), with Ailuropoda (Giant Panda) and in its own family, Ailuridae.

Recent molecular-systematic DNA research also places the red panda into its own family Ailuridae, which is in turn part of the broad superfamily Musteloidea that also includes skunk, raccoon, and weasel families.

Red Pandas are not related to Giant Pandas, as the name would suggest, but they both love bamboo. The Red Panda picture was taken at Nashville Zoo and the Giant Panda at Zoo Atlanta, Georgia, USA.

This weeks selection for the “Picture of the Week” was made by a 7th grade World Geography class at Sunset Middle School in Williamson County, TN. Thanks for your interest in wildlife photography and conservation.

Wildlife Photography – Basic Rule Number 6 – Higher ISO – a friend?

Wildlife Photography – Basic Rule Number 6 – Higher ISO – a friend?

With animals you need short exposure times. I very rarely use a tripod, sometimes a monopod. Most of the time I shoot without any support with fairly long lenses (300-500mm) – animals move – so we need to as well!

Short exposure times are crucial.  With full aperture set, I am not afraid of using higher ISO (800-1600 or even above). Especially in decent light conditions the results with modern digital SLRs are not bad. Better to have an image with a little more noise than a picture out of focus.

Hunting Mode
Lioness hunting at dusk. This picture was taken with a setting of ISO 3200 at Phinda Private Game Reserve, Kwazulu Natal, South Africa.

Wildlife Photography – Basic Rule Number 5 – Learn how to over- and under-expose with your camera!

Wildlife Photography – Basic Rule Number 5 – Learn how to over- and under-expose with your camera!

Your camera is smart, but not smart enough. Once you have your standard settings only concentrate on one adjustment while you are shooting. If the object you are interested in is much darker than the surrounding you have to over-expose. If the object is much lighter,  you will need to under-expose. This takes training; so get out there, make some exposure mistakes and learn from them.

Focus!
An African Elephant bull waking in a straight line towards a waterhole.
This picture was taken at Etosha National Park, Namibia.

Wildlife Photography – Basic Rule Number 4 – Keep the eyes in focus!

Wildlife Photography – Basic Rule Number 4 – Keep the eyes in focus!

Make sure the eyes of the animals are sharp and in focus.  With using “center point focus” you are in control of the focus, not your camera. Make sure the eyes are in the center of your picture (and therefore in focus). Leave a bit of extra room around your major object. You can crop the image on the computer. An animal is not a cathedral – the time for composition is mostly measured in seconds, not minutes or hours.

Round Eye!
Uroplatus fimbriatus (Leaf Tailed Gecko) – native to Madagascar.
Picture taken at a private breeder facility in Nashville, Tennessee, USA  (Uroplatus Specialties).

Wildlife Photography – Basic Rule Number 3 – Set your camera to a standard!

Wildlife Photography – Basic Rule  Number 3 – Set your camera to a standard!

Animal photography is motion photography. Being ready is very important. Wild animals are not posing for you. So set your camera to standard settings (see below) and return to these settings if you had to alter them for a specific situation (in case you had time :-).
The settings below work for me.

Shooting mode: Aperture Control A or AV (P for flash use)
Image recording quality: JPG best quality (or RAW)
White balance: Shade (outdoors) – AWB (indoors)
ISO: 400 (good weather) – 1600 (bad weather and indoors)
Metering mode: Center weighted
Drive mode: Single shooting
AF mode: One shot/AF-S (AI Servo/AF-C if object is moving towards you or away from you)
AF points: Center point only

Snap!
American Alligator at Nashville Zoo at Grassmere, Nashville, Tennessee, USA

 

Wildlife Photography – Basic Rule Number 2 – Shoot a lot – Waste Space!

Rule Number 2 – Shoot a lot – Waste Space!

Give up your old “film” habits and shoot a lot. I often take dozens of pictures of one scene. Like humans animals have “good” and “bad” expressions and postures. Shooting a lot and selecting the right image later on your computer will get you there. In a four hour game drive I will sometimes shoot 500 images.

Don’t worry about all the “bad” pictures you take, the good ones will make up for it!

Sparring
Two Elephant bulls sparring at Tembe Elephant Park, South Africa

This was part of a large series of images. Only a few of them I would ever show to anyone!

Wildlife Photography – Basic Rules Number 1 – Have Patience!

Quite a few people have asked me in the past about my secrets for wildlife photography.

There are no secrets just some basic rules. Over the next few days I will publish those rules on my blog. Enjoy them.

If you have any eye to capture a scene and if you adhere to these rules, you will create some great pictures.

Rule Number 1 – Have patience!

It does not matter if you shoot in the wild, in a zoo or just your pets. You need patience. Spend a lot of time with an animal and you will see amazing things. I often spend hours in front of one exhibit at a zoo or an animal in the wild.

The Kill
Lioness taking down an Nyala bull at Phinda Private Game Reserve, South Africa

I waited nine hours for this to happen and the I had only 23 seconds to take the pictures 🙂

 

Picture of the Week 50 – Bloodshot!

This weeks picture if of a Cape Buffalo Bull.  The picture was taken at Phinda Private Game Reserve, Kwazulu Natal, South Africa.

To review all 2011 pictures of the week go to http://www.sperka.biz/potw2011/slideshow

And this is my EYES series version of the image in black&white:

For more Cape Buffalo pictures go to http://www.sperka.biz/buffalo

About Cape Buffalo:

The Cape Buffalo, Affalo, Nyati, Mbogo or African Buffalo (Syncerus caffer) is a large African bovine. It is not closely related to the slightly larger wild Asian water buffalo. Owing to its unpredictable nature which makes it highly dangerous to humans, it has not been domesticated, unlike its Asian counterpart, the domestic Asian water buffalo.

The Buffalo is a very robust species. Its shoulder height can range from 1 to 1.7 m (3.3 to 5.6 ft) and its head-and-body length can range from 1.7 to 3.4 m (5.6 to 11 ft). Buffalo weigh up to 910 kg (2,000 lb), with males, normally larger than females.

Buffalo have few predators and are capable of defending themselves against (and killing) lions. Lions do kill and eat buffalo regularly, but it typically takes multiple lions to bring down a single adult buffalo.