MY ABC FOR WILDLIFE PHOTOGRAPHY

(Copyright: Johan J Botha Hon FPSSA, MPSSA, FPSA, ARPSA, EPSSA, SPSA, EFIAP)

Rule number ONE: Respect the environment, wildlife, park rules and fellow photographers…

Image Processing

1.       The purpose of wildlife image processing is only to reconstruct the original scene from   

          RAW data

2.       The better image is always the one that was captured correctly and is normally NOT  

          the one “fixed” with PS or LR etc

3.       I believe in maximum effort in the field with capturing and minimum effort with image

          processing

4.       Maximum cropping 20 – 30% if necessary at all

5.       Process only with frequently calibrated equipment

6.       Strictly obey to wildlife photography image processing rules

Hardware

1.       It is important to remember that the photographer is the creator of the image; the

          camera and lens are just the tools to capture

2.       I always use the longest possible lens and “best” camera for the purpose implying I

          back-off from the scene. It is for me not optimum to be as close as possible.

3.       A solid camera-lens support that is easy and quick to operate is critically important

4.       I pair a camera and lens for an entire trip for various reasons

5.       I never use any converters

6.       I may crop in camera if it has a FX sensor that has enough pixels to allow a decent  

          quality cropped RAW image

7.       It is essential to know the cameras and lenses inside-out, in terms of its capabilities,

          menus and ideal settings for a certain situation

8.       I always have fully charged spare batteries at hand

9.       Acquire the fastest memory cards

10.     Spare, already formatted memory cards must be easy accessible when needed

Settings

1.       Adobe RGB

2.       Uncompressed 14 bit RAW at largest image size

3.       Maximum motor drive (max fps)

4.       Continuous focus (AFC) 

5.       Single or four focus points with tracking

6.       Aperture priority mode

7.       Always lowest possible ISO…

8.       Underexpose for whites especially where black and white together (down to -3 EV)

9.       I always start with widest aperture possible (eg f4) and only stop down during capturing

At the Scene

I regard the following as very important at a scene

1.       I prefer my own vehicle as group photos or workshop images are seldom unique….it

          also provides freedom of movement and time 

2.       Be aware of environmental conditions like wind direction

3.       Check the vital signs like type of tracks and direction, excretion, puffing of feathers,

          nervousness, etc

4.       Know the animal behavior and pre-empt what is going to happen… think like an

          animal…

5.       Check all the camera settings a hundred times and again…I know I will have only one

          chance

6.       Be patient… wait….but be awake and ready

7.       Shoot many well timed images during action but NOT finger permanently on the shutter

8.       Try different things with repetitive situations like vultures taking off and landing at a kill

          for eg slow shutter speed, panning, creative compositions, extreme cropping, artistic  

          white balance, etc

9.       Practice!!!

PS: It helps a lot to talk to fellow visitors, staff and the rangers to find out what is where.