Beginning Wildlife Photography: The Photographic “Time Out”

Part 1, Before the Shoot

“To err is human”, is a common phrase. In the operating room mistakes can be very costly and have severe consequences for the patient. In order to decrease the risk of errors, every operating room goes through a process known as the “ time out” prior to the start of each case. Everyone stops what they are doing while the nurse identifies the patient, the proposed procedure, that the appropriate area is prepped, and that the required instruments are available. Each individual must verbalize agreement before the procedure can begin. While photographic mistakes don’t have quite the same consequences as mistakes in the OR, they can still ruin your day. I once drove two hours at four in the morning to catch a sunrise, only to arrive at my destination and find I forgot my cable release. Not a huge mistake but the quality of the photos I took that morning suffered as a result. Taking “Time Out” beforehand would have prevented the problem all together.

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Wildlife photography: I love my 600mm lens, but how do I get it there? Traveling with a super-telephoto lens.

Most wildlife photographers start using smaller lenses and work their way up to large super-telephoto lenses as time passes. In the beginning, I had a 300mm f4 and like most, lusted after larger lenses but wasn’t sure that wildlife photography was something I would stick with long enough to justify the expense of a larger lens. Once I saved enough and pulled the trigger on a 600mm lens I couldn’t wait to travel and test it out. My first trip with this monster was to Jackson Wyoming and Grand Tetons National Park. I knew it would be the perfect lens for the trip but getting it there on the plane was concerning and would take some thought.

Young Pronghorn Antelope Grand Tetons National Park
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Wildlife Photography: “It’s not the camera, It’s the photographer”, well, maybe not.

  “It’s not the camera, It’s the photographer”. I wish I had a nickel for every time I’ve read that in a photography book or magazine, or saw it argued on a photography forum. While it may be true that a great camera won’t make a poor photographer take great photos, it’s also true that it won’t hurt either. Throughout my life, I’ve been fortunate enough to have several hobbies in addition to photography. If there is one thing that I have learned for sure over and over again, it’s that you should buy the best equipment you can afford the first time around. A good carbon fiber fly rod won’t catch more fish, but it will make the experience of fly fishing easier, more efficient, and a lot more fun.  The same holds true for golf clubs, skis, backpacks, and most certainly cameras and lenses.

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Wildlife Photography. Capturing Nature’s Majesty: Big Bend National Park, a Wildlife Photography Paradise

Big Bend National Park is a magnificent destination for wildlife photography, with a diverse range of species and habitats to explore. The possibilities are vast with a wide range of animals such as black bears, mountain lions, bighorn sheep, and over 450 species of birds, as well as stunning landscapes that provide a perfect backdrop for capturing memorable shots of the region’s unique flora and fauna.

A view of the Chisos Basin
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Beginning Wildlife Photography: Composition in Wildlife Photography

A great wildlife photo is one that captures the essence and beauty of the subject in a unique and compelling way. There are many elements that can contribute to a great wildlife photo. Sharp focus, good exposure, emotional impact, unique perspective, storytelling, technical skills, and last but not least, Interesting composition. The photo should be well-thought-out, using techniques such as the rule of thirds, leading lines, symmetry, and framing to create a visually appealing and dynamic image.

Part of composition is capturing drama and emotion when possible
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Beginning Wildlife Photography. Super Telephoto Lenses, What to Know.

Buying and using a super-telephoto lens for wildlife photography can be a daunting task, especially if you are new to this genre of photography. A super-telephoto lens is generally considered any lens with a focal length of 300mm or more. These lenses are essential for capturing wildlife images from a distance, allowing you to capture detailed shots of animals without disturbing their natural behavior.

A 600mm f4 allows you to get close to skittish subjects like this Wood Duck
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Wildlife Photography: Photographing Osprey in West Texas

Ospreys are magnificent birds of prey that are loads of fun to photograph. Their manner of fishing by diving feet first is exhilarating to watch and a challenge to photograph. Living in West Texas you may think your chances of photographing an Osprey might be slim but even though Ospreys are not common in West Texas they can be found more often than you think. During their migration, they can be found near any body of water such as freshwater lakes and playas as long as there are good fish populations. The best time to spot them is during the fall migration, late September through mid-November. Believe it or not, all of the photographs posted in this blog were taken in Midland Texas. Let’s explore some things about Ospreys that will help you improve your chances of photographing one next fall.

Adult Osprey have average wingspans of 5 1/2 feet or more
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Nikon Monarch M5 8×42 versus Vortex Viper 10×50, two great binoculars.

Like a lot of wildlife photographers, I carry binoculars with me when I go out to photograph. I recently found that my Nikon Monarch 3 binoculars were not focusing correctly. Because of their age, I decided to replace them with a new pair from Vortex Optical, the Viper HD. After my new purchase, I had nothing to lose so I decided to test the lifetime warranty from Nikon. I sent the old pair in for repair. Somewhat to my surprise two weeks later I received a new pair of Monarch M5 binoculars in their place along with a letter stating that the others were unrepairable and would be replaced at no charge. Kudos to Nikon for honoring their lifetime warranty. I now have two great binoculars and what follows is a review of both.

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Wildlife Photography: Photo-editing in comfort and style

Photo-editing is an essential and tedious part of any photographer’s workflow. As wildlife photographers, we spent significant amounts of money on cameras, lenses, and other equipment for capturing our images on the front end. We incur an additional cost when we travel to exotic locations to pursue our subjects. The expenditures don’t stop when it comes to post-processing our images with computers, software, and peripherals such as Wacom tablets and Loupdeck panels that make the entire process easier and more efficient. Spending hours in front of a computer editing photos takes concentration and can be mind-numbing. The more comfortable you are while doing it, the less mind-numbing it will be. For a comparatively minimal investment of both money and time, you could soon be editing your photos in both comfort and style.

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