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Author Topic: Wildlife Tips?  (Read 6821 times)

jrista

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Re: Wildlife Tips?
« Reply #15 on: June 26, 2013, 11:00:59 AM »
     Any tips for a new wildlife photographer about to hit his first big excursion?  Do you use Spot and Partial Metering often as well as Center-Point Focus?  Av or Tv; generally?  AI Servo usually?
     Thanks for any guidance although I'm sure I'll have to learn a lot just by doing.

GEAR

For the kind of wildlife (and birds) you'll be photographing, the best thing you can do up front is get the longest lens you can get your hands on. If you can't afford to buy, then rent. At least 600mm (EF 600/4 L II is stellar, and with a 1.4x TC is better than the EF 800/5.6 L). If you are on full frame, make sure you bring both 1.4x and 2x TC IIIs...there will be timed when you want them (and with the 600mm on a 1D X or 5D III, with the 2x TC you get 1200mm.)

With large lenses like the 500mm, 600mm, and 800mm great whites, you will need a comparable tripod. Something very sturdy is a NECESSITY. Something like the Gitzo GT3532LS or the RRS TVC-34L. These lenses are fairly heavy, and combined with a camera, camo covering, and possibly a flash bracket setup...heavier than you can reasonably carry around all day. Along with a sturdy tripod, you will want to use a gimbal type tripod head. A gimbal will, when the lens is mounted and balanced properly, make moving the lens around effortless, and allow you to simply focus on the photography, and not hassle with the gear.

You might want to bright a flash, and a flash bracket that can be mounted on your gimbal head. I wouldn't use flash with bears, but it can be useful for other wildlife and birds when lighting gets sketchy.

TECHNIQUE

First, learn to be patient. Wildlife, so long as it does not see you as a threat, will happily get close. A camo jacket and a low profile (crouch or sit on the ground) can help, and give you an interesting perspective.

Time of year can play a big roll in whether some wildlife is easy to approach or not. During summer, deer in Colorado are easily approachable when wearing some camo (I regularly get within 10 feet of bucks...does are a little more skittish.)

Some wildlife is always aware of you, even if you try to hide (and are not IN a hide). For example, coyote or wolf will usually know where you are, and will most likely recognize you as a non-bush even if you are wearing camo clothing. A ghillie suit can help in that respect, but is kind of overkill unless you really need to be invisible. That said, even if wildlife is aware of you, so long as they do not recognize you as a threat...or food....your probably fine.

KNOWLEDGE

Last, I think someone already mentioned this....research the behavior of the animals you are interested in. Knowing at least some basic info about their behavior, the times of day they are out and about, their habitat, food, etc. will help you be in the right place at the right time to capture interesting shots.
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Jack Douglas

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Re: Wildlife Tips?
« Reply #16 on: June 26, 2013, 12:35:56 PM »
Not much I can add because I'm new to wildlife too, but here's my experience of the last 5 months.  There is a bit of a problem relative to the length of lenses.  While it is true that you'd always prefer more reach, there is a serious tradeoff relative to weight that is packed and hand holdability.  I read everything I could and finally made a tentative decision to go with 300 II and extenders X1.4 and X2.  I quickly concluded that for smaller birds that are not easy to approach that I'd only use 600 and even that was not enough.  I also realized that even though I had no serious problem with the aperture using the 6D and higher ISO, there is some loss of sharpness, more noticeable with the X2 III (not as bad as some would suggest).

Now I'm devastated, because I realize I will never be able to match what these pros/semipros are getting with the absolutely best/appropriate gear.  ;) This has lead me to rethink the camera (6D AF does disappoint in some cases) and the tele choice.  I will get another body but no matter how I try to justify a much bigger heavier lens I can't rationalize it based on cost and weight/bulk.  Maybe a 400 2.8 with extenders, but that's pretty heavy too.  I love being mobile and free when out in the bush.  So no imediate plans for a heavier lens.

Thanks very much to those who've posted such great advice here and please I'm still all ears too.  There is so much to keep in mind and learn!

Jack


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Marsu42

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Re: Wildlife Tips?
« Reply #17 on: June 27, 2013, 05:08:11 AM »
Now I'm devastated, because I realize I will never be able to match what these pros/semipros are getting with the absolutely best/appropriate gear.  ;)

That's in fact just the way it is  - people handling $15k equipment are either rich or want to get paid for a reason :-o

There is a very strong diminishing return of invest, and imho a sweet spot is what I've got just now - a crop sensor (60d) plus 70-300L plus 1.4x Kenko, though the latter has some sharpness and af performance loss. With the resulting focal length you get good iq and hight flexibility (zoom + not so heavy) at a reasonable price, but I've also come to know that shooting shy small animals requires either remote control or a lot of patience and luck.

adhocphotographer

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Re: Wildlife Tips?
« Reply #18 on: June 27, 2013, 07:00:21 AM »
Generally i use AV mode, f/6.3, ISO 800, AI servo, Centre + 8 expansion point AF, Evaluated metering... 

though reading this thread have given me some ideas to play with! :)

Maybe set-up TV for a fast shutter speed (fast moving targets) and Av mode to auto ISO and f/6.3-8 for those static targets?

Having two settings that you change between quickly is very useful...  so using different Tv and Av settings accordingly will be of use...  You may well be shooting a bird perched when a tiger runs past...  you don't want to miss it...  :)

Be patient and be prepared! I once got charged by a sloth bear (not slow at all) that stopped 2-3m away from me, reared and then sloped off...  i was caught so un-aware i missed the shot... it still haunts me! :(
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Cory

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Re: Wildlife Tips?
« Reply #19 on: June 27, 2013, 11:28:03 AM »
I wont advise on the technical stuff, ill let others more qualified than me. Gear wise, depends on what you want to shoot and your budget. Best advice I can give is practice a lot. Try differant things, ways to shoot etc. Think of the angle at which your shooting, percieve what you will see in your head and give it a go. Always look behind the subject. Dont want stuff poking out the birds head or a horizon through the horses body. Check your histogram and avoid blown pixels. Lots of exp comp. No photoshop in wildlife shots, leave that to the graphic artists. Above all, enjoy yourself and just keep trying new things.
Thanks again for all the tips.  I'm gonna use the above as a foundation and take notes on everyone's comments on a quick-reference 3x5 card.  The lens arrives tomorrow and we leave the next day.  I just made in my pants.
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GmwDarkroom

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Re: Wildlife Tips?
« Reply #20 on: June 27, 2013, 12:30:48 PM »
One needs a lot of patience when shooting wildlife
Number one thing to remember.  As jrista pointed out, be prepared to sit/stand/kneel/lie in the same spot for a while.  Subjects get nervous with movement and fidgeting, but often will calm down and return to their activities if you stay put.

If you're going to head to a feeding spot or watering hole to capture wildlife, don't underestimate your comfort needs to stay still for long periods.  Knee pads, elbow pads, a surface to lie on, maybe one of those golf seats, etc.  You're hunting, so research their techniques and gear too.

tiger82

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Re: Wildlife Tips?
« Reply #21 on: June 27, 2013, 12:35:51 PM »
Don't get eaten or be part of the scenery.
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Marsu42

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Re: Wildlife Tips?
« Reply #22 on: June 28, 2013, 06:01:15 AM »
You may want to consider using a flash.  A flash can add a catch light in the eyes and it can add fill for backlit critters (e.g., birds).

Good idea, I use flash all the time for this. But you also have to add a flash bracket to prevent drop shadows, to prevent red/green eyes on animals (it's surprising how many have reflective eye backgrounds) and to get the eye reflection away from the center which looks horrible "p&s-like".

Dylan777

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Re: Wildlife Tips?
« Reply #23 on: June 28, 2013, 09:12:29 PM »
Get a long telephoto lens. 400mm or longer. I like 400mm f2.8 IS II + x1.4 & x2 TC III for extra reach for outdoor. 

With 5D III, I'm very happy with AI servo, 4points expansion for tracking big subject. 8points expansion for tracking smaller subject. Case# 2.

Don't forgot to add fast CF. I have Lexar x1000.
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Mr Bean

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Re: Wildlife Tips?
« Reply #24 on: June 28, 2013, 10:35:10 PM »
Get a long telephoto lens. 400mm or longer. I like 400mm f2.8 IS II + x1.4 & x2 TC III for extra reach for outdoor. 

With 5D III, I'm very happy with AI servo, 4points expansion for tracking big subject. 8points expansion for tracking smaller subject. Case# 2.

Don't forgot to add fast CF. I have Lexar x1000.
+1.
I have the 300mm f4 with 1.4x TC, and that's a minimum IMHO. After reading the recent reviews, the 600mm f4 is starting to whisper in my shell like ear ;)

On my 5D3 I have 2 of the custom settings C3 and C2, set up for wildlife pic's. Since I mainly do bird pic's, the difference between the 2 settings is the number of active focus points - C3 is just a central point, for birds in a tree or bush (where focus is tricky), C2 is an expansion set, for BIF or in the open. I use C3 / C2 rather than starting with C1 because I can simply turn the dial without looking and I know what the last position is set to (rather than C1, where I might have to look down at the dial).
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Mr Bean

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Re: Wildlife Tips?
« Reply #25 on: June 28, 2013, 10:41:27 PM »
KNOWLEDGE
Last, I think someone already mentioned this....research the behavior of the animals you are interested in. Knowing at least some basic info about their behavior, the times of day they are out and about, their habitat, food, etc. will help you be in the right place at the right time to capture interesting shots.
+1.
Knowing how and when the wildlife work/act saves a lot of wasted time. For example, some of the smaller birds out the back of my place, come through in "feeding flocks". It might only take them 4-5min to do their thing, then move on. But if I get there as they finish, that's it, I've missed the chance. I've started to recognize this habit, so I can tell if its worth stopping for long.

P.S.  It helps having a renowned bird specialist living just up the road, who's quite happy to point out these things ;)
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ERHP

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Re: Wildlife Tips?
« Reply #26 on: June 29, 2013, 07:20:51 PM »
+1 for the kneepad(s).  Something I always forget to bring along on the shorter wanders so my coping strategy is to essentially turn my left foot 90 degrees right and use it for a resting spot for my right knee for short periods.

In some situations the silent shooting mode might be very beneficial if your camera supports it.  I've had deer come within minimum focusing distance of me while shooting in Mode 2 on the 5D MK III.

Stated before but researching your intended subject rarely hurts.  Also good is a quick ID book for potential plant life such as poison oak/ivy/stinging nettles/etc. 

If you do go for the big whites, I would recommend a suitable Lenscoat or similar product to camouflage it.  They still know it's there but it is far less likely to be startled when it starts to move.  Plus you get a little shock/abrasion protection for your multi-thousand dollar toy.


Lots of good advice so far.
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Marsu42

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Re: Wildlife Tips?
« Reply #27 on: June 30, 2013, 05:03:09 AM »
Knee pads, elbow pads, a surface to lie on

Another +1 ... I use this method when shooting in the snow lying or kneeling on the ground, and even in good weather for protection from hard surfaces (knees weren't built to hold your weight, floor tiler know that).