Learn with Calumet: Wildlife Photography. Part 2

#6 Reptiles


If you’re shooting reptiles out in the wild use a long focal length to keep your distance. Crocodile or snake bites are not the most pleasant of experiences. Remote shutter release is also a good recommendation, not only for health and safety reasons but it will help you eliminate tripod vibrations. The best time to photograph reptiles is  early in the morning on a warm and slightly overcast day – that is when you’ll find snakes and lizards basking in the sun. A good piece of advice here would be to brace yourself with patience. If you happen to disturb  your subject causing it to retreat while setting up your equipment, be patient. Reptiles usually return to the same spot within minutes.

Suggested camera settings: 

Mode: Aperture Priority       Aperture: f/4-11

Shutter speed: Auto              ISO: 200-400                      Lens: 70-300mm




#7 Environmental scene


Shooting environmental animal portraits is a great way to capture the animal in its habitat. Take a step back when composing the frame to reveal more of the surroundings. Try framing the shot with the animal against a clear or contrasting background. Nature allowing, you can also use light to your benefit trying to compose a shot around a subject that is picked out in different light. Watch out for highlights and bright colours in the scene that may want to compete for attention, ensure you use positive exposure compensation to keep the right colour balance. When it comes to autofocus, go for a manual setting of a single AF point corresponding with the animal’s position, otherwise th camera may lock onto the background.

Suggested camera settings: 

Mode: Aperture Priority       Aperture: f/8-11

Shutter speed: Auto              ISO: 400                      Lens: 18-200mm



#8 Bird in Flight


To capture a sharp shot of a bird in flight ensure you pan your camera. Make sure the switch of your lens is set to AF and the camera’s focus mode is AF-C (Nikon) or Al Servo (Canon). Choose a single AF point or a small group and keep it over the bird’s eye, head, or neck as you move the camera to track its movement. To freeze wing motion, you’ll need a fast shutter speed – 1/1,000 sec or even faster. It is also worth knowing that larger birds take off and land in the wind, so find a shooting position to take advantage of this – ideally with the sun over your shoulder.

Suggested camera settings: 

Mode: Aperture Priority       Aperture: f/2.8-5.6

Shutter speed: 1/1,000s             ISO: 800-3,200                      Lens: 150-600mm



#9 Kingfishers


Kingfishers are such beautiful subjects to photograph, but in order to get a great shot of these rapid little birds you need to stay hidden as they do not like an audience. Kingfishers tend to use the same perches so look for white droppings on branches overhanging rapidly flowing rivers. For impressive diving shots use a hide (not sure what this means) and position your lens close to water level ensuring your camera is in burst mode. If you’d like to photograph them at or near a nest though, you’d need to apply for a license, as kingfishers are protected by law in the UK.

Suggested camera settings: 

Mode: Manual       Aperture: f/4-8

Shutter speed: ¼,000              ISO: Auto                      Lens: 500mm



#10 Amphibians


Using a 100mm macro lens will be your best choice when shooting amphibians. To create an interesting image you need to shoot them from a slightly raised angle to provide a clean backdrop of water. Selecting a single AF point will allow you to focus precisely on the pupil rather than on the rim of the eye, making the eyes really stand out. Always remember to review the image you took to ensure it is sharp and the focus is where you wanted it to be. When photographing amphibians it is also good to use a reflector or an OCF (off camera flash) to remove the shadows and brighten up the area under the throat. If you’re not using a macro lens, try fitting an extension tube between your lens and a camera so you can focus at closer distances.

Suggested camera settings: 

Mode: Aperture Priority       Aperture: f/5.6-8

Shutter speed: Auto              ISO: 400-1,600                      Lens: 100mm macro

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