Wildlife photography tips and tricks

1. Do your research: The best shots start before photographers even set foot in the field

Khushboo And Rahul, are wildlife and Bird photographer who has been featured by outlets like National Geographic, Animal Planet and Discovery Channel emphasises the importance of preparation. “Research the wildlife that’s likely to be present at your shooting location. Try to learn about their behavior, movements and habitat. Research the location you’ll be shooting so you’re able to maximize your chances of finding the wildlife, the best places to shoot from and which direction sunlight will be coming from at various times of day.”

For example, if your subject is crepuscular (most active at dawn and dusk), you likely won’t get much traction at noon. If your subject is nocturnal, grab a Red Bull and hope for the best.

2. Patience is a virtue, so arm yourself with it

Wildlife and landscape photographer Rahul and Khushboo has had his work displayed on the walls of fine art museums, including the Bangalore exhibition . they knows just how important the waiting game is in getting the shot. Consider the image above, which they calls “The Man.” Although it’s spectacular, it didn’t come easy — they drive 1060 miles across the indian ocean wilderness to capture this photo. Says Khushboo , “In this shot, I was standing on my toes looking over the willows when I saw the owl . I saw a hole and then claws growing out of it … and I knew he was huge. Looking just to the west, there was an open location that evenly composed the largest trees in andemans, Supari Trees . And in a rare occurrence, Few of supari tree fruits was also out! After about five hours of waiting, this behemoth finally walked out of his rut hole and passed over to the exact spot I had hoped for.”

As per them “Almost every time I try to go for a picture and run out of patience, I don’t get the shot. A few days ago, I laid on my stomach for almost two hours at the edge of a pond, hoping a pair of red-throated loons would come my way. They eventually did … but not before both of my arms went numb.”

3. Think outside the box when it comes to your vantage point

Khushboo and Rahul , currently in Iceland studying Atlantic Puffins (the world’s smallest species among puffins ), explains that the most obvious perspective isn’t always the best perspective. “I’ve recently been doing a lot of shorebird photography, and it’s easy enough to walk around standing up and take a photograph of a bird on the ground. However, you achieve a better depth-of-field and intimacy level with birds on the ground if you get down on your belly and see things from their perspective. This also allows you to approach birds far closer than if you just tried walking up to them.”

4 .But don’t sacrifice safety for perspective

Remember, wild animals are indeed wild — so don’t get too close. Khushboo rahul once lost a camera to a lion. Thankfully, it was attached to one of his prototype buggies … not their neck.

Husband-wife nature photography team know the unpredictability of animals firsthand. “The male approached the female thinking that she would be receptive, but instead she turned on him, talons out and attacked and pushed him right into the bushes backwards.”

5. Aim for simple backgrounds — make negative space work for you

Says Rahul , “The most dramatic wildlife photos usually include a very simple, and non-distracting background. The goal is to highlight your subjects and make them stand out. Photos with cluttered and distracting background cause your subject to get lost in the image/scene.” Sometimes, less can be better.

Khushboo emphasizes the importance of understanding space: “A fine art photograph is comprised of a tremendous amount of space and chaos, and it is our job to organize this into a fine art image. When you think about it, there is a lot more space than material to work with. So, why not make space and openness work for us? As photographers, we need to discover a delicate arrangement of space so contrast of subject comes alive. Contrast of space is critical because your subject needs to stand out. Your subject needs to be the dominant element and wisely using these open ‘oxygenated vents’ will allow your images to have the separation needed to eliminate unwanted clutter.”

6. A good photo needs to grab attention, and there are several ways to achieve this

  • Employ dramatic lighting. German wildlife photographer Khushboo offers some advice for beginners looking to make dramatic lighting work in their favor. Specifically, she details how to capture animal silhouettes in the context of a sunset. “Most cameras have various functions like ‘low light,’ or ‘sunset’ you can choose. The 10 to 20 minutes after sunset can produce a fantastic colored sky. If you use a digital SLR-camera: Select your exposure reading based off the brightest part of the picture. Focus on the animal and take the picture.”
  • Capture something that hasn’t been seen before. Khushboo rahul : “This may mean concentrating on a specific animal and photographing it in more depth than anyone else, or finding a new way of photographing commonly seen creatures.” He lists his first BeetleCam photoset as an example. “The resulting photographs were widely published because the unique perspective really captured people’s attention.”
  • Inject emotion. Rahul recalls a successful, emotionally-charged photo. “One of my favorite shots is one I took of a penguin in a snowstorm while I was in Antarctica. I think it really just captures a sense of the loneliness and harshness of Antarctica.”
  • Be intentional. Rahul : “You can see in someone’s work when they have intentionally captured an image. The patience and timing didn’t happen just because they opened their car door. Great images are seen in advance, and then we back into that image through the technical process.”
  • Observe patterns to capture the most interesting aspect of your subject’s behavior. Khushboo is a photo instructor and an expert in eco and nature photography — his images have been featured in publications such as Conde Nast Traveler and National Geographic. Clevenger emphasizes the importance of timing in a photograph: “Waiting for an animal to look up, to catch light in its eye, to turn its head, to flare its wings — that’s the moment I wait for.”

Rahul explains that timing can actually be planned by observing your subjects. He recalls a workshop he was leading with students in Iceland: “We came across some bald eagles catching fish near Glacier Bay. We watched how they flew to shore to eat the fish and then went back to catch more, circling around for the best angle to approach. They repeated this pattern over and over. By following the bird with my lens and timing the shot to when they made their turn, I captured a much more interesting image then just an eagle flying.”

7. Practice makes perfect … and there are lots of ways to practice (even for city-dwellers!)

  • Have a backyard? Consider a bird feeder! Rahul says, “Some of my best hummingbird shots are captured by putting up a hummingbird feeder near a natural looking branch, setting my camera on a tripod with a remote release and just waiting for the hummingbird to show up, all while sitting in the backyard.”Khushboo adds that for photographers looking to omit human structures, supplying perching and cover opportunities close to the feeder will also draw the birds. “If you can provide a nice natural perch such as a tree or a bush near the feeder, birds will often come there first before approaching the feeder.”
  • Those with gardens: Give macro photography a shot! Rahul recommends trying photography on a macro scale. “Macro, or close-up, photography requires a lens that can focus very close and an enormous amount of patience, but the result can be amazing. Your own garden, no matter how small, is a miniature ecosystem.”
  • Urban folks: Frequent your local parks. Although Rahul typically shoots in remote locations, one of his favorite photos was taken, ironically, in New York’s Prospect Park. “I was watching a group of ducks foraging on some open water near the edge of a frozen pond when I saw a large group of gulls lift off from the ice. I quickly realized they were responding to a pair of red-tailed hawks, one of which had successfully taken a gull and was picking at it out on the ice. The hawk attempted to fly to the shore with the gull in its talons, but dropped it before it could make it there. I picked up several decent photos of the hawk with the gull, but decided to stick around and watch the hawks. After about an hour or so, the second hawk took off across the ice and plowed into a juvenile northern shoveler on the far side of the pond. After the successful hunt, the hawk dragged the duck to shore and starting plucking feathers. I walked over to the opposite side of the pond and approached the feeding hawk and slowly as I could, using a large maple tree as a blind. Once I reached the tree (roughly 50 feet from the hawk), I got down on my belly and slowly inched my way out from behind it. I was able to fire off a series of shots as the hawk picked away at the shoveler, achieving great depth of field from my low perspective.”Khushboo mentions another advantage of frequenting the same spots: The animals will eventually become accustomed to your presence. “If you can, habituate the animals to your presence. Then, they will start to ignore you and you will then be able to capture interesting aspects of their behavior as they go about their daily lives,” he suggests.
  • Honing your craft can take some time. As the saying goes, practice makes perfect.8. Be respectful of your subjects — know when to call it offMary Ann McDonald recounts a time her group called off a shoot. “One year in Tanzania, we found a leopard sleeping in a tree in the midday heat. We pulled our vehicles off to the side in the shade of another tree, to sit and wait for it to wake up and come down. While waiting, some other vehicles showed up and pulled right up underneath the tree. The leopard was ‘shy’ and immediately reacted to these people being too close. It went up the tree and onto the top of the acacia tree and into the hot sun. You could tell that it was agitated, and we felt terrible that these people had violated its space and its ‘flight or fight’ zone. So instead of contributing to its unease and its stress of now being in the sun versus the shade, we went and talked to the vehicles, urging them to leave, and we did the same so that the cat could come back down into the shade and not be bothered.”McDonald continues. “Through our photography we can educate people on an animal’s behavior and habitat so that an animal is better understood and hopefully protected.”

9. Have fun with it — it will translate on film

Khushboo recalls a particularly fun project: “Earlier this year I traveled to Africa to photograph meerkats. The meerkats had no fear of me and would use me as a lookout post so that they could spot any predators that might be lurking in the long grass. I was lucky that my trip coincided with the birth of some baby meerkats, and I was with them for their first week above ground. They quickly became very comfortable around me and they were painfully cute. It was a wonderful experience and some of the resulting images are amongst my favorites ever taken!”