Wildlife photography can be one of the most gratifying and one of the most terrifying photography subjects to get into. You are bound by the luck of the moment, but you also need to have immense skills to be able to be ready to capture the moment when it happens perfectly.
By wildlife, this could mean anything really – the garden hedgehog, dragonflies round a pond, deer in a distant field, birds in flight, or baby elephants in Africa. Whatever you are trying to capture though, the same rules and the same sets of skills apply.
It is your job to observe – this is one of the most important parts of being a wildlife photographer. That is because you are never going to be able to control your subjects and you are just waiting for the right moment. You need to be switched on while you are watching the subjects, ready for the shot, and you need to understand a little about the behaviour of the animals you are capturing, as this will help you to predict what is going to happen next – giving you opportunity to cue your shot.
Patience is a virtue when it comes to wildlife photography, because the waiting and watching can take up a significant amount of your time. This will allow you to get used to the animals that you are shooting and give you that insight that you need into what may occur. When are the animals acting aggressive, when are they in their mating routine, when are the playing, and what else can you see in their behaviour that might be worth shooting.
Sometimes, it is not just the time with a particular type of animal that can help you get the shot, but the time you spend with one, or a particular group of animals that will help you. This is because you will start to get to know their individual personalities, and again this will allow you to know better what they are going to do next.
You also need to know your boundaries. Disturb the animals at your peril. They are simply likely to run off and you will have no chance. If you can find the perfect way of keeping yourself at a distance, but can be close enough to capture their features clearly, then this can optimise your images and give you a better chance at getting a good one.
The lenses that you can buy these days are better than they have been ever before, and you can buy some incredible telephoto lenses that will enable you to stay far enough away from the animal to allow them to be unaware of your presence. Make sure you try out different types of lenses before you settle on which one works the best for the type of wildlife photography you are carrying out. A little trial and error always comes into photography, but if you know and understand your equipment well then this will allow you to be even more prepared.
A teleconverter lens can be a useful item to carry around in your equipment bag. It weighs very little compared to a full telephoto lens and will therefore keep your equipment light and not cumbersome. This is particularly useful if you are going to need to do some trekking to get to your perfect wildlife photography point.
The final point to mention is that you should always look out for the unexpected. As much as we have discussed how good it is to be able to predict the behaviour of the wildlife you are shooting – there will always be unexpected moments and they could be the perfect shot.