Wildlife Photography Tips – Part 3
Sheep Aren’t Sheepish, by guest blog contributor Jenise Jensen.
Congratulations, you’ve made it this far! You’re familiar with your camera’s settings and feeling pretty confident. Check. You’ve gone out and practiced taking photos of some of the more common animals around your yard, perhaps squirrels and geese. Check and check again. You’ve downloaded the pictures and you’re pretty happy with how they are turning out….even better! You’re ready to capture photographs of more elusive wildlife and wondering where to start.
Before you venture out, take a moment to review your camera settings (click here to re-read that information). Make a mental commitment to try a technique that is not automatic on your camera. Here are some settings to consider adjusting:
- Try setting your ISO, versus putting it on auto. A lower ISO provides better picture quality. If it’s sunny, 100 ISO is the way to go. If it’s cloudy, dawn/dusk, or in the shade, perhaps start around 400-800 ISO and see how your pictures look. If they are too dark, increase your ISO.
- Try using zone or single point autofocus. As your skills increase, you’ll want to become confident at a single autofocus point on an animal’s eyes. It’s time to start practicing that skill and learn to quickly change where in the frame you are focusing as the animal moves. A finely focused photo of the moose’s legs, versus his eyes, will forever be remembered as “the shot I missed”. Don’t worry; we’ve all been there. Practice now and you will capture the photo the next time.
- Try setting your shutter speed. This number fluctuates on a number of factors, including what lens you are using and the speed of the animal. Slow moving animals and shorter lenses = possible slower shutter speed; fast moving animals and longer lenses = faster shutter speed needed.
The next question is: how or what? How to capture something a bit more elusive than the squirrel in your backyard? A good place to start is to seek larger wildlife that typically do not move quickly. For instance….sheep, goats, grazing horses, or bison.
Sheep are actually not sheepish at all about posing for pictures. And they can be found in many locations throughout Colorado. If you don’t live in Colorado……well, it might be time for a vacation! Another option is a road trip or visit to your local zoo. And don’t forget, Mike’s Camera offers FREE fall demo days in both Colorado and California zoos to try out both your wildlife photography skills and different gear. Check back here for location and schedule as fall approaches.
If you’re lucky enough to find some sheep or another large but typically slower moving wild animal such as bison, longhorns, etc., here are a few tips to capture great photos:
- Have a healthy respect for any animal that has horns. Keep your distance and keep something between you and that ram in particular. A large tree, your car, something solid. Rams have been known to charge and shatter the glass doors and windows of houses. Don’t become their target practice!
- Consider the light: position yourself where the sun will be behind or to the side of you, so that you are not shooting into the sun. This may sound basic, but when you find that elusive herd, sometimes it’s easy to forget, especially as you’re maneuvering around to get the photo you want.
- Bigger animals need bigger lenses. You’re likely going to be further away from sheep or other animals in the wild, so a bigger lens is needed. The Tamron 150-600mm is a great performer for daytime wildlife photography. And with a big lens, you’ll want to use a monopod, or if you prefer, a tripod, to stabilize the weight of the camera and lens. As previously mentioned, bigger lenses also require faster shutter speeds, so remember to adjust your settings.
- Big Horn Sheep, goats, and bison tend to stand around and eat…..a lot. The good news about this is you most likely won’t have to make quick adjustments to your camera settings and can take your time in lining up and framing your photograph. This also gives you time to practice changing your focus points. The biggest challenge besides staying a reasonable distance away may be to recognize light changes. If the sun is going in and out of the clouds, make changes to your ISO settings and adjust accordingly.
Summer is quickly arriving, so there’s no better time than now to go outdoors and start capturing wildlife photos. Here’s hoping you get that Big Horn Sheep in your focus point, because next we will focus on foxes. Foxes can be more elusive and definitely move faster than sheep. Yet they are beautiful creatures that make stunning photographs and from now through late June the dens are particularly active in Colorado.
Be sure to check out our next post: Tips to Capture Wildlife Photos Part 4: Fox Family Portraits!
About the photographer:
Jenise Jensen enjoys sharing the beauty and opportunities of living in Summit County Colorado, having lived and worked in the area for 15 years. In her recreational time she can be found skiing, hanging out with her rescued (and aptly named) canine pal “Lucky,” or strolling around town with a camera. Jenise is passionate about capturing the beauty of Summit County and her work is featured in a variety of local magazines and the Summit Daily News. To see more of her work, visit www.JeniseJensen.com or visit Get Real Bazaar in Breckenridge.