Taking the Best Nature Photographs
If you want to pull on someone's heartstrings when they are viewing your images, show them photos of baby animals. Cute does the trick, and there is nothing more cute than young animals, especially if they are mammals. Besides being adorable young animals are often animated and comical, and images of them will give your presentation special warmth. I like to call it the “Ahhhh” factor. There are very few people who do not like baby animals.
Photographing them can be tricky since baby animals often come with their escort of a full grown adult animal and they tend not to be so cute and cuddly when they are concerned about the welfare of their young. Sometimes the adult animal will put themselves between you and their young so be ready and make your images when you can. Sometimes even the cute little baby animal can become dangerous to be near if they are disturb. This is one of the places that knowing your subject will come in handy.
Interaction between wildlife is a way of bringing life into your images and your presentations. Interaction can come in many forms and show excitement, caring, drama, and so much more. Think of the excitement of images of two polar bears mock fighting, what shows more caring than the interaction between a mother bear and her offspring, and how about the drama between two male elephants facing off for the right to mate with females?
Portraits of wildlife are wonderful and can be very moving images, however wildlife in the process of living gives you a window of what being wild is all about. Look for Interaction and remember that it does not occur only between animals, think of how much more interesting an image of a flower is if there happens to be an insect on the petal, or how wonderful it is to see a humming bird feeding on nectar from a flower.
The Peaceful Times
I have been telling you about the wow moments where the excitement carries the image, but there are times in nature when you feel the calm come over you and realize that even among all the drama in the wild world, there is a time for peace and tranquility. The predator resting in the grass, or the silhouette of the elephant against the African sunset, to some these times are sometimes the hardest to portray in your images. Here you need to relay on your instinct and sense of beauty.
Think about what it is about this scene that moves you and then what you need to do to make an image of this feeling. Is it the light, or the animal in a unique setting, maybe it is the way the wind is blowing the fur on the animals back or simply the pair of eyes showing through the tall grass. Knowing what moves you about the image will allow you set your camera controls to capture that feeling.
Don't Be Afraid of Habitat
When I am with others photographing I often notice that some will wait until an animal comes out into the open before they make any images. I also notice that too often their wait never rewards them with the image they were hoping to get. Animals live in trees, bushes, grass, and all kinds of interesting habitat. Why not include some of this habitat in your images?
This is especially true if you are trying to photograph wildlife that is secretive or elusive, or if you are trying to portray the subject in their natural surroundings. Including habitat give the viewer of your image more information and a better idea of what it was like to have been there. The trick is to make sure you can see the eyes. If you can photograph the animal's eyes then what you don't see in the image does not matter.
I have been to Uganda to photograph mountain gorillas several times, and photographing there can be challenging at best. There is always the chance of a torrential downpour, muddy trails, heat and humidity, and working at altitude in some of the densest forests I have ever been in. There is always the question of what the terrain will be like when you find the gorillas and you always wonder if the apes will show themselves enough to be photographed.
Well I must say that I have never been disappointed and I have been well rewarded for all my efforts. I have seen dominant silverbacks standing defiantly in the open, mother and young walking down an open trail, and sub adults hanging from branches playing. All of these circumstances have resulted in lots of great images but of all the images I have my favorite gorilla photo is one where only parts of his head are visible through the dense vegetation. To me this is what I think of when I think of mountain gorillas living in the impenetrable forest. It is a small glimpse into the life of an incredible animal and is the closest I have come to putting my minds idea of the gorilla into a photograph.