Greetings, you’re listening to the Liam Photography Podcast. In this episode 160 I wanted to talk about something I am passionate about as are many photographers out there and that’s Nature Photography. This genre of photography can be a lot of fun and rewarding but also takes a great deal of patience as nature works on its own schedule. I will include a few of my own images in the show notes, starting with a photo of a male lion I captured at Zoo Atlanta back in 2014 that I ended up selling to NatGeo to use as the wrap cover of their Big Cats textbook.
Now it’s not like a deer in the woods or a hummingbird or an owl or eagle is going to let you schedule a day and time to come out into the woods or a field and photograph them, animals are funny that way, they tend to not use calendars or Facebook or smartphones, especially since many of them don’t have pockets to carry them in. There are a few things to keep in mind when out shooting nature and especially wildlife.
- Don’t be intrusive: Nature works on it’d own without human intervention just fine and most animals prefer to not be disturbed. Wildlife is not used to a human presence in their domain and most of them would prefer that we humans stay out of their habitat.
- Carry as little into nature as possible: In order to have the best chance of capturing great images you need to travel as light and easy as possible. I generally recommend taking just one camera body with a good telephoto lens to capture what I want. A 70-200mm can work but you are probably better off with a 100-400mm or better, but try not to take something too heavy as you are going to be out there for hours. I wouldn’t recommend taking a tripod as wildlife isn’t going to stand around and wait for you to photograph them.
- Take water and snacks: If you are planning to be out in nature for several hours or even all day as I sometimes like to do, make sure you take some snacks and bottled water so that you have a way to sustain yourself. If the unthinkable happens and you become lost or injured, you might need the water and snacks to survive.
- Take a buddy or mark your location: You want to be as safe as possible when out in nature so I recommend taking a friend along or another photographer, that way if something does happen you can be found or rescued that much quicker. Send your location to a loved one or other family member before you lost cell signal if you do so that any search and rescue personnel have an accurate place to start looking for you. Carry a compass, it may sound silly but a compass can save your life and as someone who was a Boy Scout all the way to Eagle, I still live by the motto, “Be Prepared!”
- Carry extra batteries and memory cards: The last thing you want to have happen when photography nature or wildlife is to have your battery die unexpectedly or having a memory card failure. Good quality third party batteries like Wasabi are very good and reliable and for most cameras you can get two of them with a charger for around $20 on Amazon. Memory cards are also fairly cheap as well and you can easily get by with 16 or 32GB cards for a low price. Remember, being you are shooting slowly and methodically you don’t need screaming fast memory cards so the cheaper ones will work fine. If you are looking to capture birds in flight, you might need faster cards, but for most things the cheaper, slower ones will get the jobs gone and you can carry many of them with you.
- Take a signaling device: If you should God forbid become lost or injured, make sure you have some inexpensive signaling devices with you such as a nice, loud whistle and a really bright LED flashlight. These are items that once again you can find on Amazon, Walmart or Academy Sports and Outdoors. They are small and can easily be tossed into a camera bag and forgotten until needed, just make sure before you head out that you test the flashlight to make sure it has fresh batteries and even carry a couple of spare sets with you. You can get the really high quality Eneloop rechargeable batteries on walmart.com or amazon.com and they usually come with their own charger as well.
- Mirrorless is your friend: When doing nature and wildlife photography I mentioned being as unobtrusive as possible, I recommend taking a mirrorless camera as they are quieter than a DSLR is, especially any of the many models that are capable of a truly silent shutter. I would also recommend turning off the AF Beep as well as that will be disruptive.
Once you have found your spot, set up and settle in for the “wait.” As I mentioned at the top of this episode you have to have patience to get those really spectacular images. Sit quietly and wait for nature to get somewhat “used” to your presence in order to see something worth photographing. It might be a deer or bird or even bear if you are lucky but again, be careful with animals such as bears as they can be aggressive, especially if it’s a mother bear out with her cubs. It might be something simpler such as the way the sun shines down through the trees that captures your eye, especially if it’s still fairly early in the morning or late in the day as the sun moves across the sky and lights up different parts of the environment.
You might be able to find a nice stream to sit near and then get images of the various animals that come throughout the day to drink from the stream or if it’s hot in the summer time, they might come by for a swim. I discouraged earlier the possibility of taking a tripod but if you insist on having one handy make sure it’s a light weight carbon fiber one so it’s not so heavy to lug around or I also highly recommend the Platy-pod flat tripod. This little wonder can be attached to your photography backpack using its provided carabiners and has small, metal, spike feet you can attach to the bottom to “stake” it into the ground to keep it stationary.
As part of your set up, depending on what you are hoping to accomplish or if you are a professional wildlife photographer, maybe you want to use a hunting blind to help camouflage you from nature and make it somewhat easier to get those images you want. These can be purchased on Amazon and at many of the sporting goods chains as well as Walmart and allow you to sit in one spot and be hidden from nature and they also provide a small window that you can observe and photograph through.
Now it’s not totally necessary to go out into the woods or up a mountain to capture wildlife, I have taken some amazing images of hummingbirds at my home as I keep feeders out all year round. I have also been lucky enough to spot deer along a road in a nearby field and been able to stop and photograph them without disturbing them. Heck, I have even been able to find a nest of eagles along a country road and stop and snap some images as well as with red-tailed hawks and owls down in Georgia and North Carolina, so it is possible to get great images without being isolated in the middle of nowhere all day.
This will conclude Episode 160 of the Liam Photography Podcast, I want to thank my listeners once again for Subscribing, Rating and Reviewing in Apple Podcast or anywhere else you listen to your podcasts. Also wanted to remind you that my first book, Forgotten Pieces of Georgia – The Northwest Counties is available for sale, you can pick up a signed copy at the liamphotography.net online store or an unsigned copy at Amazon or Barnes and Noble.
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That is a wrap folks and I will see you again on Sunday for the latest news and rumors.
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