Getting started in wildlife photography: favorite guides and impressions.18 Jun 2021
I am now three months into owning a telephoto lens (200-500mm) for the purpose of photographing wildlife and I have learned a lot. I am also stronger, because carrying that thing around is … something. I did not start out wanting to photograph birds, but even if you are not interested in birds in the slighest, they are a great animal to practice on because birds are super hard and yet everywhere and so avaliable without travel. So if you can take good photos of birds, well, you will be set. Given that, though, once I started noticing birds, well, I noticed them everywhere and now I am interested in birds. This was totally unexpected.
These are some of the guides that I thought were helpful for getting started on this topic, both because they covered the animal behavior aspect as well as some of the technical aspects of how to get the camera to capture the animal’s image in a way that is desireable.
- PC Mag, Michael Muchmore The Best Photography Tips for Bird Watchers,
- Photography Life, Robert Anderson The Ultimate Wildlife Photography Tutorial,
- Digital Photography School, Prathak DK 10 Incredible Bird Photography Tips for Beginners,
- Martin Bailey Photography, Martin Bailey Shooting and Focusing Techniques for Telephoto Lenses (Podcast 584 transcript).
My short TIL-style photography notes are here: /til/til-photography/.
Items or practices that have helped a great deal are:
- learning settings on the camera (particularly the Martin Bailey podcast).
- getting better at being still, walking quietly, changing clothing so the animals are ok with me around. For instance, I had a light-colored visor; every time I moved my head, the animals saw it. This allows me to get closer without a longer focal length lens.
- I had started with a monopod, but I was never able to hold the camera and lens steady. I switched to a gimbal on a tripod and while this whole arrangement is heavier to transport than the monopod, when it is stantionary the tripod holds the camera and the images are better.
- Practice in my backyard with birds that we feed, so there are usually birds there.
- Note the active times of wildlife; during the spring-summer in my area, the land animals will be done moving by 9am, but more likely by 8am. Earlier is better. They will start moving again around 7:30pm. Birds will be active for a longer window in the morning, until 10:30-11am or so and strong sunlight actually works better for them (because the shutter speed needs to be high). They have an active period in the late afternoon-early evening.