As you know, nature photography isn’t easy. We all get excited by simple things. You can see the full list of languages below. A beautiful landscape or wildlife. But simply seeing it isn’t why we photograph. We carry our gear and tripods around, travel far and work long hours in order to capture the perfect shot. Rarely do we get the perfect shot. But we don’t despair—if perfection isn’t achieved, we persist, head back out and try again. The challenge is the lure. We keep trying because it’s what we love to do. In this week’s tip, I present 10 of my top criteria toward which we should strive to capture action.
Nature photography can be rewarding. It’s wonderful to capture a great portrait in early or late light yet as gear gets better and more photographers accomplish this feat, it’s time to raise the bar. You can do this by looking for action, motion and different forms of movement in your photographs. To capture nature “doing something” brings the image to the next level. This is why the guidelines and rules of a great wildlife portrait are still applicable. Just because a photographer captures a photo that depicts locomotion doesn’t excuse poor technique.
1. Backgrounds, mergers and the Decisive Moment
The two bear cubs standing upright are shown in the picture. I have highlighted the positions of their mouths as well as the background that is out of focus and the time at which it was taken. The faces draw in the viewer—be aware the key parts of each mouth are separated by blue. If they merged, the image wouldn’t have the same impact. Second, notice that the background is not in focus compared to their feet. I used a lens with a large aperture. Third, the moment at which the shutter fired was when both bear’s faces were perpendicular to me—not turned away. It’s important the viewer sees facial features and expressions.
2. Freeze Action and Get Low
While I was lying on the grass, the photo of the avocet with its reflection was taken. Low angle puts me and the subject on the exact same level. To “look down” on an animal tells the viewer the subject has inferior status. To freeze any motion, I used both a high shutter-speed and a wide aperture. The bird had to remain perpendicular for the sharpness to be maintained. As soon as the avocet’s bill dipped into the water I started to fire the shutter. This was the best frame.
3. Edge Of Light Motor Drive
It is important to have good lighting. You can use it in special ways. It is important to note that the egret will soon be walking into the shade. Whenever possible, use “the edge of light” to enhance your images. To capture the exact moment, I set my motor drive to high (10 frames per second). When taking action shots, high-speed drive is a must.
When panning, it is important to render the main feature of your subject clearly. If the subject is too soft, it will look like the photographer was trying to deliberately reveal an exaggerated movement. It takes a lot of frames to get a good panning picture. Don’t give up. The shutter speed will be determined by how fast the subject is moving. Try out different situations and make notes.
5a. Abstract Scenic Blurs
Add motion to stationary objects. I mounted my camera on a tripod with a pan-tilt head to get the top shot of the lodgepole trunks. I stopped down the aperture to ƒ/22 to cover the depth of field and to obtain a slow exposure of 1 second. I loosen the knob that allows you to move the head vertically for the bottom image. During the 1-second exposure, I gently moved the head upward in a fluid motion.
5b. Multiple exposures
Multiple exposures is another way to create a scenic effect that demonstrates movement within partially stationary objects. For the seascape shot, I set up the camera for 10 exposures of a three-second period. The camera’s technology factored in the exposure, so it was easy. The ocean waves were able to move more. Multiple exposures were used to increase the action of the ocean waves. It was low-tide and calm.
6. The importance of the Aperture and Focus Point
The blackbird was photographed with a 400mm at ƒ/4. I had to focus very carefully because of the extreme magnification. At ƒ/4 and 400mm, the focus is very shallow when close to a subject. The focus point was set to Dynamic and Constant so that it would remain on the bird’s face if it moved. When the bird started calling, the focal point followed its eye. So, even though the focus was centered while the bird was resting, it followed it when the animal moved.
7. Shoot Wide
Animal images don’t have to be made with long lenses. You should try to do something different. In order to capture the whole scene, I used a lens that was wider than normal. As the pelican flew in and out, I stayed on the motor drive and was happy with where the bird appeared in this photo—no merger with the clouds in the background.
8. Pre And Following Focus
We saw the leopard in a large tree, and we hoped he would come down to hunt in the evening light. It was exciting to see it become active as the sun started to set. This picture is meant to emphasize the importance of focusing. Then, The subject is brought to its optimum level of action. After Once this happens. Before you begin, please consider the following: Focus on the main point After It is important to keep in mind that the subject may continue to be great.
9. Odd Number And The Storm Light
In number three, I mentioned that dramatic light is important. Storm light was one of the conditions I could always photograph. As I was waiting for snow geese to arrive in Bosque Del Apache, suddenly clouds began rolling in towards sunset. When some of the snow geese took to the air, a small opening appeared in the window and the birds flew directly into the sun. It is also important to choose odd numbers when taking photos of several subjects. Three or five is my favorite. This keeps the viewer interested in the entire picture. When there are even numbers of subjects the viewer will unconsciously move between two, four, or six animals. However, when there are odd numbers, viewers create a visual flow.
10. Display Behavior
Animals are very active when they hunt or feed. Try to capture this behavior as often as you can, preferably in the early morning or evening when the light conditions are optimal. It’s easier said than done, so be persistent. You can predict the movement of your subject by getting to know it. Lastly, know your gear inside out so you don’t fumble over controls when the action is peak. Unfortunately, the animals won’t provide a “take two” if you miss it.
A photographer may encounter beginner’s luck and come across one or more of the above situations early in their career, but as time goes on, each will discover they were blessed that day. As time passes, you will appreciate that day more. Keep going. It’s all about the challenge.
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Outdoor Photographer first published the article 10 Action In Nature Quick Tips.