I have some great images for you today and some ideas that will help you improve your photography while out in the field.
When we start out in photography it’s all very exciting and we rush around taking shots of anything and everything that grabs our attention, but often this haphazard approach can produce images that we get bored of looking at very quickly. So how can we change this?
As your skills and understanding of photography develops frustration can set in, as the images you take don’t match up to the ones you see in books and magazines or what your favourite photographer may turn out. One of the main reasons for this is visualization. Knowing what you want to achieve and visualizing that scene in your mind is very important. So if you have that preconceived idea in your head before you leave home, you will not be wandering around aimlessly looking for inspiration.
At the moment I’m working on my next book about native animals of New Zealand – so because I’m traveling to many areas and time is always a problem, I visualize how I want to photograph the different species before I’ve even found them. The following Sea Lion shots were all in my head, so when I located them I knew exactly what I had to do.
This handsome fellow was huge. I wanted to get a shot of a large bull looking straight at me. Sounds easy enough but Sea lions sleep for much of the day, so when I found this chap he was fast asleep. I positioned myself with the Sun behind me and laid down – not as close as this image suggests, as I had a 500mm lens attached to my camera. Then just waited and waited and waited. Several hours later everything fell into place and as he got up, sand still falling from his body, I started to shoot. With this shot I got the added bonus of him looking at me with only one eye open. 500mm lens, 1/800 sec at f/8, ISO 200.
Luck played a part in this shot. I knew I wanted to photograph a Sea Lion coming out of the sea and was lucky enough to see two Sea Lions playing in the surf as soon as I stepped onto the beach. So, again armed with my 500mm lens, I got down low and got this great shot of a surfing Sea Lion. 1/2000 sec at f/8, ISO200.
Interactions between male and female can make for some great shots and although you have ideas already in your head sometimes you get things that you hadn’t planned. Knowing something was going to happen but not sure exactly what, being in the right position meant I could capture this shot, as a female came up behind this male and just flopped on top of him – a wonderfully intimate moment. 500mm lens, 1/250 sec at f/7.1, ISO 200.
The looking over the shoulder is a great pose for both human and animal shots. Seals often look at you from this position, so the early evening Sun really made the shot. Beautiful. EF 70-300mm @160mm 1/50 sec at f/5.6, ISO500 and polarizer. Keeping this shot in mind,enabled me to get this one of the rare Crested Grebe. 700mm (500mm + 1.4x), 1/500 sec at f/8, ISO 320.
Photographing Sea Lions is relatively easy compared to say Penguins, and although knowing the type of shot you want is very important, in the case of Penguins it’s more important that you do not disturb them or cause them any stress. Penguins tend to have a routine, so watching from afar to understand their movements and behaviour is important, and this way I can hide from the penguins and put myself in a position that I know will not have any impact on their behaviour (something many tourists and dubious photographers seem to ignore).
Having observed the day before where the Fiordland Crested Penguins came out of the sea, meant I could completely obscure my position from these timid birds enabling me to get this shot as it emerged from the surf. He continued on his way oblivious to my presence. If he knew I was around he would of returned to the sea – something I did not want to happen. As a wildlife photographer, the welfare of the animal must always come first. 700mm (500mm + 1.4x), 1/3200 sec at f/8, ISO400.
One of the shots I was after with the Yellow-Eyed penguins, was of them jumping. At Curio Bay I thought this might be possible. It was the Rangers day off when I was there, so I helped set up the rope to cordon off part of the beach with the local surf instructor, to help keep the public from getting too close to the penguins and blocking their route. It’s very important to give the penguins the space they need. I also photographed from this position but because I had observed these penguins many times I knew where they were likely to have to jump across the rocks. Ready with my trusty 500mm lens connected with a 1.4x extender I got the shot I was after.
700mm, 1/4000 sec at f/7.1, ISO 400.
One style I like to use is shooting subjects with a wide angle lens, as I love the effect you can get. The tricky part is being able to get close enough to the subject to use it. With most wild animals it’s impossible, but on the odd occasion you find yourself photographing some of the more inquisitive species. Always having the wide angle option in the back of my mind, means when the opportunity arises I’m ready to go.
The wonderfully inquisitive Kea just can’t help itself when shown something new to investigate – on this occasion my EF16-35mm attached to my 5DII. 16mm, 1/200 sec at f/11, ISO 500.
Wandering Albatross can also become inquisitive when you’re hanging over the edge of a boat. Just make sure you’ve put the camera strap around your neck! 23mm (16-35mm), 1/400 sec at f/11, ISO 400.
As I’ve mentioned I often try to visualize what I want before I leave home, but wildlife can be very unpredictable, so having preconceived ideas could work against you unless you can also adapt those ideas to suit the situation you find yourself in.
This is one shot I knew I wanted, with the Albatrosses wing being obscured by a wave to show how low these magnificent birds can fly (269mm (70-300mm) 1/2500 sec at f/7.1, ISO 500). So in the shot below, when I saw them flying around Tairaroa Head on the Otago Peninsular, I used a similar idea to show how close to the cliffs they sometimes come by defusing the Albatross behind the long grass on the edge of the cliff. 500mm, 1/250 sec at f/5, ISO 1000.
The next 4 images show animals in their environment. This idea is always in the back of my mind to show something different to the big close up shot that seems to dominate wildlife photography.
A group of Spotted Shags resting on the beach at low tide. 70mm, 1/640 sec at f/11, ISO 400.
This time same species, on the same beach, and the same idea – but by changing my position and simplifying the composition it gives a different feel to the shot altogether. 300mm (70-300mm), 1/1600 sec at f/8, ISO 400.
A Yellow-Eyed Penguin after a day at sea returning to feed its young. Seen here as it starts its journey over the rocky inlet. Quite a challenge when your legs are so short. 700mm (500mm +1.4x), 1/5000 sec at f/7.1, ISO 640.
This last shot shows part of a Red-Billed Gull colony with the stunning Tairaroa Head as the backdrop. 100mm (70-300mm), 1/400 sec at f/5.6, ISO 200 and polarizer.
So as you can see, having ideas and images already in your head can enable you to get great shots when you’re out in the field. To help yourself think along these lines you don’t have to start planning a book, but setting yourself targets, projects and themes can help you focus on getting great shots and get your imagination working.
My workshop “On Location – The Next Level” is one step to help you achieve this. Next date is 25th Feb and more info can be found here: www.trevorpenfold.com/advanced-workshops (Note: I now have new workshops, which you can find here.)
Hope you found this blog of interest? Feel free to leave any comments either here or on my facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/trevorpenfoldphoto. Until next time happy snapping.