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Tuesday, October 21, 2008

5 Top Tıps For Autumn Wildlife

With the seasons in flux, fall gives nature shooters some of the best photography possibilities of the year

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GEESE: Nikon D2Hs, 200-400mm ƒ/4 Nikkor
3) Temperature Changes Add Drama
Migrating birds, colorful foliage and dropping temperatures are all part of autumn’s splendor. It’s my favorite time of the year, and my only complaint about this season of beauty is that it doesn’t last long enough. As the temperatures drop, the lakes, streams and waterways often are warmer than the surrounding air. This combination of opposite extremes can create moody conditions that an experienced artist dreams of.

The best time for documenting the various bird species typically is early morning. Not only can you have the moody climatic conditions of fog and haze, but you’ll position yourself to take advantage of the golden hours of light that early morning offers as well. The geese image was shot 30 minutes after the sun had risen above the horizon. It was cold, -25 below zero on an early day in November in my home state of Minnesota. The warm hues were spread across the image due to reflections from the water and the steam rising toward the sky. My intention was a silhouette, and the added bonus of one bird stretching its wings was a piece of serendipity that only hours of being in the field affords.

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Photographing sandhill cranes was another opportunity that took place in the early-morning hours shortly after the sun had ascended. Many, if not most, animals are typically active at this time of the day, as well as the last hours of light in the evening and into the night. These times of activity are the main reasons it’s beneficial to have a fast, large-aperture telephoto. I used a higher ISO due to the benefits of digital capture and a relatively fast 200-400mm ƒ/4 zoom.

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PHEASANT: Nikon F5, 500mm ƒ/4 Nikkor
4) Make Your Still Images Move
One of the limitations of still photography is the difficulty in trying to create a feeling of life in a medium that’s inherently a “moment in time.” Combining the feeling of movement with that “moment in time” can be extremely effective at stopping the viewer to study more closely. I’m constantly looking for ways to try and bring life to a still photograph.

The most common method to add the feeling of movement is a “controlled blur,” or panning. Panning requires a slower shutter speed than what you’d typically think for a moving subject. The running pheasant was captured with a 500mm lens at 1⁄125 sec. That sounds fairly fast, but it’s not when combined with the magnification of a 500mm lens. The key to a good panning image is to be sharply focused on the subject, moving or panning the lens as the subject travels horizontally. Using a tripod is helpful, but with lens stabilization technology, it’s easier to accomplish the same goal handholding your equipment. You have to shoot lots of images to score any keepers.

I use another technique sometimes for driving snow and rain. I opted for a slower shutter again when I photographed a resting polar bear (1⁄15 sec). This time the subject was stationary, and the heavy snow was falling and streaking across the digital sensor. As the snow drove toward the ground, it left a blurred trail and gave the feeling of movement. The bear remained sharp, giving the eye something to focus on comfortably.


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