I love doing wildlife photography. One might say I am obsessive about it. There is no greater challenge in my mind than capturing the soul of an animal in the wild. Course, recently I have learned that doing landscape photography is far more difficult in many respects, the principal ingredient being that one must envision the landscape shot before the shutter is released. And that requires lots of patience, something I have little of. So, I thought I might a little about the frustrations of wildlife photography and examine when things go well and when they don’t.
When things go well.
The shot above is an example of a shot that went very well for me. BTW, if you click on any photo it will display the original size.
This shot of an eagle taken at ISO 400, f/8, 1/1250, made with the Canon 1Ds Mark II and the Canon 200mm f/2.8L went well in my opinion. The exposure was spot on and most importantly the perspective was right. I was lying down on some rocks as low as I could get. And, too, I included the environment which more and more I realize is important in wildlife photography. Moreover, the photograph was sharp where it needed to be, that is, the eagle. Course I did get dirty, I nearly broke my neck on the wet rocks, and I was freezing to death in the cold wind blowing from the north. That’s Alaska! BTW, the mountain in the background is Redoubt, which is just now erupting.
When things don’t go well.
Now, let me compare the shot of the eagle with a shot taken of some sea otters. In this instance I was on a boat, moving at about 20 MPH, in three-foot seas, while shooting handheld and trying not to fall off the boat. This shot did not work well.
To start with the “raft” as it is called, was really cramped with lots of sea otters, making it nearly impossible to find a point of interest for the shot. Second, it was terribly underexposed. Third, it lacks enough DOF to have all the otters in focus, partly because I was trying to keep the shutter speed high because of the movement of the boat, the movement of the otters, etc. Here taken at ISO 400, f/5.6, 1/1000 with the Canon 1D Mark IIn and the Canon 100-400mm f/3.5-5.6L at 400mm.
The other issue which is not apparent in this shot is that there were considerably more otters in the raft. And they were diving, so I had very little time for what shots I was making. Thus, here I am, standing on a wet deck, moving at 20 MPG, bobbing up and down with waves, fighting spray that was coming aboard, and watching a large group of otters moving in 1,000 different directions and trying to find something to focus on. It did not work.
Course, the good thing is, I have to go back to Alaska and try it again. This time with some pre-planning. A smaller boat, a good guide to get me closer, and calmer seas.
Now, let me show you another shot that I think went well, this one is of a Brown Bear. I like bears.
Here photograped at ISO 400, f/8, 1/1250 with the Canon 1Ds Mark II and the Sigma 50-500mm at 500mm using a monopod for support. The light was good and the bear stopped for a moment and looked at me directly. Yep, this shot went well.
Compare with another shot done at the same exposure of a bear in a creek.
Here the light was harsh and the exposure was wrong. It tooks lots of post processing in trying to save the shot. But it fails. It looks false, it is not natural because I did not consider the water when doing the exposure and managed to get too many highlights that required me to adjust the shot in post processing. And, I should have been in the creek with the bear, the perspective is wrong. Next time, I go into the creek and expose for the water.
Here is another shot I am not satisfied with. The problem here is the whites. They don’t look natural. I think I should have underexposed this shot a tad, it would have brought out more of the details in the whites.
The whites are simply wrong. That’s because the exposure was wrong. Done at ISO 400, f/9, 1/2000. I may be able to do more with this shot in post processing, but it would have been so much better if I had gotten the exposure right. Another reason to go back to Alaska!
Compare with this shot, in better light with the right exposure.
So, sometimes things go right, sometimes they don’t. The challenge is to admit our failures, learn from them, then move on.
I gotta go back to Alaska and find me a sea otter and do better next time!
And while there, make sure the bear finds a better spot to play, so those dern grass stems aren’t in the way. One would think the bear would understand that.