Photography Guide Book: Wildlife Photography: On Safari with your DSLR: Equipment, Techniques, Workflow

Many successful wildlife photographers have said similar things in the past, and it is only really the location that varies. Wildlife photography reminds me of an old paradox from my religious instruction classes in school:

"Praying while you are working is OK, but working while you are praying is forbidden."

This paradox perfectly embodies the dilemma faced by every wildlife photographer: You can't observe wildlife carefully and photograph the animals you observe successfully, but you can combine successful wildlife photography with the scientific observation of animals. Focused, precise observation is, in fact, an absolute must if you want to photograph wild animals.

Let's compare two scenarios:

The focused observer uses his eyes and his binoculars to observe and remember behavioral patterns or parts of a scene directly. Here, the visual experience is more important than an image observed later on a monitor or as a print. If the wildlife observer sees a particularly interesting or exciting scenario, he will most likely pull out his camera and end up taking home plenty of great images. A wildlife observer can visit zoos and game reserves at just about any time of year, and package vacation deals make it possible to combine great experiences with the chance to take great photos.

A wildlife photographer uses a completely different, more measured approach. He plans individual photos, studies the behavior of specific species, and, as far as possible, adjusts his behavior to suit that of his subject. The wildlife photographer observes through the camera and continually divides his attention between the narrow field of view of a telephoto lens and the overall scene confronting him. He has to concentrate on his subject while keeping his camera settings under constant control.

A wildlife photographer's travel companions quickly learn that comments such as "Look at the lion over there on the right" are extremely relative when seen through a 500 mm or 600 mm lens. This is the point at which we start using phrases such as "Lion moving at two o'clock". As soon as the action starts, the photographer has to maintain his image composition while adjusting camera settings to account for changes in lighting. He also has to check and adjust focus, even if he is using a modern, high-power autofocus system. And remember, the subject is an animal that can be moving at up to 45 mph, possibly straight at you!

When you are shooting fast motor-drive sequences, the hordes of fl ashing displays, the blinking focus area indicators, and the flicker of the camera mirror in the viewfinder make the view through the lens quite surreal. And then, when sweat runs into your eyes, you often end up only really seeing what was going on when you view your images later on your computer monitor. But you still have a chance of shooting an image that no one has ever seen before.

A wildlife photographer must prepare for each trip meticulously, becoming familiar with local shooting conditions as well as the habitat, the habits, and the migratory behavior of his chosen subject. Trips like this involve significant expense, but always follow the ultimate goal of putting the photographer "in the right place at the right time". Increasing experience and concentration can help the wildlife photographer to gain a completely new view of nature—a view that is often more detailed than that of a highly-trained scientist. Modern technology can even help today's wildlife photographer take a look back into primordial times.

I have drawn this comparison to help you to decide whether you want to just "observe and snap" or whether you want to pursue wildlife photography in depth, based on your own visual ideas. The outcome of this decision will have a significant effect on your choice of equipment, your choice of future destinations, and maybe even your entire life plan.

Although I have included some fairly detailed discussions of photographic technique, the main aim of this book is to help you to photograph wildlife successfully based on detailed knowledge of habitat and animal behavior. Wildlife photography should not be based on luck or coincidence, but rather on the ability to predict when a situation will arise, even if this takes hours or days. It is important to remember that even a well-planned scenario can simply fail to occur at all. I will use the Serengeti ecosystem—one of the most fascinating wildlife regions in the world—to illustrate my point.

The Serengeti is one of the most densely populated wildlife reserves on Earth. It is a microcosm that counts nearly all known African predators and large mammals among its inhabitants, including lions, leopards, cheetahs, rhinoceroses, elephants, buffalo, giraffes, crocodiles, gazelles, and antelopes. Even African wild dogs, previously thought to have been wiped out by the canine parvovirus, have been sighted recently. And then there are the huge herds of gnus and zebras that spend the whole year grazing through the region. We will follow these animals on the way to learning the basic principles of practical wildlife photography.

I hope that the biologists among you will forgive my sometimes casual descriptions of the complex biological processes that comprise the Serengeti's ecosystem. My principal aim is to communicate the knowledge necessary to succeed at photographing wildlife.

Wildlife Photography: On Safari with your DSLR: Equipment, Techniques, Workflow - by Uwe Skrzypczak

Wildlife Photography: On Safari with your DSLR: Equipment, Techniques, Workflow - Table of Contents:

Part 1 The Basics

Chapter 1

Equipment 7

1.1 Choosing Your Equipment ................................................................................................ 9
1.2 Tripods and Other Accessories ........................................................................................ 14
1.3 Using Flash ....................................................................................................................... 15
1.4 Transporting Your Gear .................................................................................................... 16
1.5 Data Management on the Road ...................................................................................... 17

Chapter 2

Shooting Techniques 19

2.1 Basic Camera Settings ...................................................................................................... 20
2.2 Image File Formats ........................................................................................................... 22
2.3 Camera Dynamic Range .................................................................................................. 26
2.4 Image Histograms ............................................................................................................ 28
2.5 The Camera's Autofocus System ..................................................................................... 36

Chapter 3

Image Composition 39

3.1 Image Composition ......................................................................................................... 40
3.2 The Rule of Thirds ............................................................................................................ 42
3.3 Perspective ...................................................................................................................... 44
3.4 Free Your Subject ............................................................................................................ 46
3.5 Cropping Images ............................................................................................................. 47
3.6 Animal Portraits ............................................................................................................... 48
3.7 Panning the Camera ........................................................................................................ 50
3.8 Reportage Photography ................................................................................................. 52
3.9 HDR and Panorama Stitching Techniques ....................................................................... 54

Chapter 4

Planning Your Trip 57

4.1 The Right Place at the Right Time .................................................................................... 58
4.2 The Serengeti Ecosystem ................................................................................................. 60
4.3 Preparing to Travel and Conditions on the Road ............................................................. 64
4.4 Where to Stay ................................................................................................................... 68
4.5 Daily Routine ................................................................................................................... 70

Part 2 Wildlife Photography in Practice

Chapter 5

The Light in East Africa 75

5.1 Morning Light .................................................................................................................. 76
5.2 Daylight ........................................................................................................................... 78
5.3 Evening Light ................................................................................................................... 80

Chapter 6

The Ngorongoro Crater 83

6.1 The Ngorongoro Crater—Wildlife Paradise on Earth ....................................................... 84
6.2 Photographing Hunting Lions ......................................................................................... 88
6.3 Rhinoceroses—The Last of their Kind .............................................................................. 96

Chapter 7

The Ngorongoro Conservation Area 99
7.1 Siringet, the Endless Plain .............................................................................................. 100
7.2 Gnus—The Real Superstars of the Serengeti ................................................................. 102
7.3 Cheetahs—The Fastest Predators .................................................................................. 106
7.4 Hyenas—Merciless Hunters ........................................................................................... 108

Chapter 8

The Serengeti National Park 113

8.1 One Man’s Dream ........................................................................................................... 114
8.2 Savannah, Kopjes, Bushland, and Forest ....................................................................... 118
8.3 Hunters of the Savannah ............................................................................................... 120
8.4 Migration and the Mating Season ................................................................................. 125
8.5 The Long Trek North ...................................................................................................... 128
8.6 Zebras—The Scouts of the Great Migration .................................................................. 130
8.7 The Western Corridor ..................................................................................................... 135
8.8 Crocodiles—The Last Remaining Dinosaurs .................................................................. 136
8.9 Lionesses—Perfect Solo Hunters ................................................................................... 138
8.10 Elephants—Eating the Bush Bare .................................................................................. 144
8.11 The Courtship Dance ..................................................................................................... 146
8.12 Food Envy ...................................................................................................................... 149
8.13 Gazelles and Impalas ..................................................................................................... 152
8.14 The Big Antelopes .......................................................................................................... 154

Chapter 9

The Masai Mara 157

9.1 The Mara River—Life Source and Barricade................................................................... 158
9.2 River Crossings—Palpitations at the Mara River ............................................................ 160
9.3 Party Time for Vultures ................................................................................................... 168
9.4 Hippos—Big and Dangerous ......................................................................................... 172
9.5 Giraff es—Slow Motion Rivalry ....................................................................................... 177
9.6 Big Cats with Their Own Names ..................................................................................... 181
9.7 Honeymooners—Lions and Sex .................................................................................... 184
9.8 Lion Cubs at the Double Crossing ................................................................................. 190
9.9 Leopards at the Talek River ............................................................................................ 194
9.10 Cheetahs at Rhino Ridge ............................................................................................... 200
9.11 That Elusive Cover Picture, or Camping in the Rain at the Mara River ........................... 206

Information
Appendix 217
Addresses and Links ...........................................................................................................218
Index ....................................................................................................................................220

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One thought on “Photography Guide Book: Wildlife Photography: On Safari with your DSLR: Equipment, Techniques, Workflow

  1. Ladies and Gentlemen
    would you please delete the stored PDF in the link.
    This PDF is my property from my book "Wildlife Photography".
    The PDF was filed without my knowledge or consent sharing.
    I ask for immediate removal.
    Uwe Skrzypczak

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