Always have your camera with you, explore your backyard and 10 more pro tips.
Oregon is home to more than 250 species of animals – from backyard birds to mountain mammals -- making it a perfect place to practice your wildlife photography skills.
Keith Kohl, ODFW wildlife area operations manager, is an avid and accomplished wildlife photographer. Here are his tips for getting the most from your wildlife photographs:
When you’re out hiking, camping, biking, kayaking, be sure to pack a camera. Some wildlife shots happen because of careful planning, but many others just happen. If you don’t have a camera with you, you can’t capture these unexpected moments.
Set out a variety of foods to attract a variety of birds, and select bird feeders with perches that mimic the natural environment.
Yes, professional wildlife photographers invest in expensive cameras and mega-lenses, but you can still take great photos with even entry-level gear. It’s more about good technique than having the longest lens.
It you decide to invest in new gear, spend your money on quality lenses. Good optics will have a bigger impact on your photos than will incremental increases in the number of pixels your camera records.
Camera bodies are like computers – there’s always a new and better one coming along. Lenses stand the test of time and good ones will outlive several camera bodies.
Your vehicle will help hide any movement and scent, and many birds and animals will get used to a car or truck being there. Arrive at your location early (here’s where scouting will pay off), set up and wait for your subjects to arrive.
A great tool for your “vehicle blind” is a camera bean bag that fits over the door frame and supports your lens and camera.
Let them come to you. Unless you get lucky, your chances of sneaking up on an animal are pretty slim.
Instead, arrive early at a likely viewing spot and set up in a blind. It could be a portable blind, a permanent structure, or even your car.
Even if you normally shoot in the “auto” mode, understanding the impact shutter speed, aperture and ISO can have on your photos will help you select the best “auto” mode for the conditions you’re shooting in.
If you’ve set your camera for special conditions – stop action, low light, etc. – be sure to return your camera to mid-range settings (ISO, etc.) when you’re done. If you keep these mid-range settings consistent, you’ll already know what your camera set for when you need to grab a quick shot.
A viewer’s gaze is drawn to an animal’s eye(s), so if there’s only one element in your photograph that’s in focus make it the eye(s).
Coincidentally, animals often are most active near sunrise and sunset.
As a guide, plan on deleting 10 times as many shots as you keep. But before you hit the delete button, take a moment to think about why the shot didn’t work.
The sooner the better you do this the better. Digital photography makes it easy to take lots (and lots) of photos. So many, in fact, it can be hard to find anything. Good photo management can be a two-stage process:
Wildlife photography is a year-round activity with each season bringing new photographic opportunities
All photos by Keith Kohl.
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