Nature Photography Guide to Tasmania

Nature Photography Guide to Tasmania

Picnic Rocks

Text and images by Australian wildlife and nature photographer, Michael Snedic (April 2023)

Tasmania is an island state, situated 240kms south of the Australian mainland and separated by Bass Strait. Its landscapes are incredibly photogenic and range across rugged and diverse terrain including alpine heathlands, dry midlands, evergreen eucalypt forests, cool temperate rainforests and so much more. There is a large array of wildlife found in Tasmania. Mammal types include various species of kangaroos and wallabies, bats, wombats, possums, platypus, echidnas, quolls as well as the iconic (and endangered) Tasmanian devil. The island also has a wide assortment of bird species, reptiles and frogs. Some of the rarer bird species which bird photographers often seek to photograph include the endangered Orange-bellied parrot, the Swift parrot, the Forty-spotted pardalote and the Shy albatross. Regarding reptiles, there are 18 different species found here, including the She-oak, Delicate and White’s skinks. Frog species number 11, with species such as the Green and Gold, Eastern Banjo and Striped Marsh frogs found on this island state.

Tasmania is also a great location to photograph auroras (Aurora Australis) and they can appear at any time of the year. I have photographed auroras in Freycinet (from Coles Bay looking across to The Hazards) as well as Cradle Mountain, but they can appear almost anywhere across the state. Due to Tasmania’s closeness to the south magnetic pole towards Antarctica, Aurora Australis is often visible.

Basically, Tasmania is a photographer’s heaven!

Travelling to Tasmania

To get to Tasmania, you can fly to places such as Hobart or Launceston. If you are on the mainland and have a vehicle, you can drive it on to the ‘Spirit of Tasmania’ ferry from Victoria, across the Bass Strait.

As far as travelling around Tasmania is concerned, by far the easiest way is to hire a vehicle (either a car or campervan). That way you can travel wherever you want and stay in locations as long as you need. I have personally hired a campervan a number of times and this has given me plenty of flexibility. You can also join one of many organised tours on offer in the state but unless it’s a photography-specific tour, your photographic options are usually limited and a tad rushed.


Suggested Locations

1. Cradle Mountain

One of my personal favourite locations, where I have travelled with my camera and presented photography tours numerous times over many years, is the Cradle Mountain region. Cradle Mountain itself is situated in the central highlands region of Tasmania, within the Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair National Park and rises 1,545 metres above sea level. Apart from incredible landscape opportunities (especially of the mountain itself at sunrise and sunset), there are plenty of stunning rainforests and waterfalls to be found in the region. Two waterfalls within easy reach are Knyvet and Pencil Pine, both of which are accessible by walking 5 minutes along a short boardwalk from the carpark area in front of Cradle Mountain Lodge. As far as wildlife opportunities go, you really are spoilt for choice! Echidnas frequent area, wallabies are quite common and around sunset and in the evenings you will sometimes see tiger quolls, which are carnivorous marsupials. Wombats are also common towards sunset around Ronny Creek. They are used to people, and you can generally get quite close to them with your camera.

Aurora-Cradle Mountain Tasmania

2. Tarkine/Takayna

The Tarkine region (also known by its indigenous name Takayna), in northwest Tasmania, is a much quieter and less well-known area and features incredibly beautiful landscapes. It contains high-quality wilderness as well as large tracts of rare, cool temperate rainforest  It also has eucalypt forest, dry sclerophyll, buttongrass,, woodlands, wetlands and grasslands, to name but some. For wildlife, the Tarkine is home to 28 terrestrial mammals, 111 birds, 11 reptiles, 8 frogs and 13 freshwater fish. One of the best areas to stay and visit is the small town of Corrina, situated right on the banks of the Pieman River. This small village offers cabin accommodation, campsites and meals (not offered in the off season). Corrina Homestead also offers two different boat trips – the Pieman River and Sweetwater cruise. Both cruises are worth doing and make for some unique photography experiences in Tasmania.

3. Freycinet

Freycinet, situated on the east coast of Tasmania, is a very popular tourist destination and for good reason. It features a peninsula defined by Schouten Island and a stunning mountain range known as the Hazards. 
There are plenty of locations in Freycinet National Park worth visiting with your camera, the most popular being a hike which leads to a lookout that overlooks stunning Wineglass Bay. This hike is all uphill so a decent level of fitness is required. Another popular location is Cape Tourville Lighthouse, where you drive up a windy road to the carpark area and then walk along a boardwalk to reveal stunning views below! Other locations worth taking your camera to include Sleepy Bay and Honeymoon Bay, both of which are easily accessible by parking in the designated carparks and hiking along well-signed trails. Apart from an assortment of mammals to photograph, there are plenty of birds to along the shorelines, including species such as Pacific Gulls, Pied Oystercatchers, White-bellied Sea Eagles and Red-capped Plovers. The range of beautiful landscapes and wildlife are one of the reasons I run photography tours to Freycinet National Park and surrounds.


4. The Bay of Fires

Travelling north from Freycinet and still on the east coast of Tasmania is the region known as the Bay of Fires. Here you will find an incredible 50km coastline laden with massive granite boulders covered in orange lichen, snow-white sandy beaches and turquoise-coloured water. Destinations well worth visiting with your camera include Binalong Bay, Mount William National Park, (including the very photogenic Picnic Rocks) and Eddystone Lighthouse. There are loads of bird species here too, similar to the Freycinet region.

5. Mt Field National Park

Another area that is popular with photographers is Mt Field National Park, which is only a one-and-a-half-hour drive from Tasmania’s capital, Hobart. Highlights include two majestic waterfalls – Russell and Horseshoe Falls. Both falls can be accessed very easily with a short hike from the Parks and Wildlife Service Information Centre, at the entrance to the national park. It is important to note that Tasmanian Parks and Wildlife permits MUST be purchased at the information centre prior to you visiting each of the falls. Another popular location is Tarn Shelf. By driving 16kms from the information centre, you end up at Lake Dobson carpark. You can then do a 12km hike known as the Tarn Shelf Circuit. This walk includes a number of glacial lakes and is very colourful in autumn when the deciduous beech trees turn a rich yellow colour.

Bennett's Wallaby

Best time of the year

As far as the best time of the year to travel to Tasmania, it depends on where you decide to go. Each season has its benefits. For areas such as Cradle Mountain, I suggest visiting in April/May. At the end of April and early May, the deciduous leaves of the Beech trees (Nothofagus) change colour and make for stunning landscape shots. The cooler months in this region (if/when it snows) also make for some great snow-covered mountain shots. On the east coast, in the areas mentioned including Freycinet and the Bay of Fires, I favour visiting in winter or spring, although most of the year can be quite decent to visit and photograph. The temperature is generally cooler and the forests quite lush. For the Tarkine region and Mt Field National Park, anytime of the year is fine to visit and photograph.

Top Tips for Nature Photography in Tasmania


1. Look for Diffused Light

The light can be very harsh in places such as Freycinet and the Bay of Fires, so when photographing seascapes, I prefer shooting at either sunrise or sunset. Subtle light wins over harsh, daytime light anytime!

When taking photos of waterfalls such as Russell and Horseshoe in Mt Field National Park, in the stunning rainforests at Cradle Mountain or forests in the Tarkine region, overcast days are always best. Clouds act as ‘nature’s diffuser’ and help reduce harsh shadows that sunny days can produce. To achieve smooth, milky waves crashing over rocks or onto the sand or cascading waterfall, using a neutral density (ND) filter with a sturdy tripod and a remote or cable release (or using an App on your phone that’s paired to your camera) is the best way to stabilise your camera/lens combo. This reduces the chance of blurry images quite well. You can also use a circular polarising filter (CPL) to slow down the camera’s shutter speed by 1.5 to 2 stops, reduce glare created from water as well as saturating the image slightly.

tasmanian devil

2. Bring a Long Lens

For photographing wildlife in locations such as Cradle Mountain, using a zoom lens with a decent focal length is best. I would certainly recommend a minimum focal length of around 400mm (or higher). Even though some of the wildlife such as wombats are quite relaxed and used to people approaching them fairly close, the longer focal-length lenses are needed for the more skittish species such as Tiger quolls or the popular Pink robin. The further away you are physically, the less the animal is disturbed and displays more natural behaviour. Wildlife species such as wombats, Bennett’s wallabies and echidnas (one of only two monotremes or egg-laying mammals in the world) are more active early in the morning or later in the day. The wider the minimum aperture your lens allows the better, as you are letting in more light and therefore increasing the camera’s shutter speed. The faster shutter speed minimises blur when handholding your gear. A monopod, with a monopod head, is another way of stabilising a heavy camera/lens combo.

For subjects such as wombats, Tasmanian devils or echidnas, which live on the ground, getting down to the animal’s eye level makes for more pleasing shots. With the Tasmanian devil, sightings are quite rare nowadays, due to a spread of facial tumours which drastically wiped the populations of these unique mammals. You may, however, be fortunate and see them at dusk and in the evening.

3. Use Fast Shutter Speeds

If you are planning to capture flying shots of bird species such as the Pacific Gull, the Wedge-tailed Eagle or the Green Rosella I suggest using continuous focus mode (AI Servo for Canon users) to help track your animal as its moving, coupled with ‘burst’ mode. Many mirrorless cameras have eye tracking capabilities nowadays which make tracking moving animals so much easier. To freeze your subject, you need to use a decent shutter speed (I recommend at least 1500th to 2000th of a second), especially for fast flying birds. The faster the better! If your subject is still and you are wanting to take a few portrait shots, then you don’t need a high shutter speed.

protesters falls

The main points to remember are to focus on the animal’s eye(s), leave room in the direction it is facing (if facing left or right and not looking directly at you) and watch for distractions in the background.

In conclusion

Tasmania has recorded the cleanest air in the world, is covered in incredible scenery and has many unique wildlife species. If you do decide to take a trip to this incredibly rich and diverse island with your camera, you will not be disappointed!

To view Michael’s photography, website, please visit:

If you have a passion for wildlife, nature or travel photography and would love to go on a small-number, professional photography adventure, please get in touch with Michael Snedic at WildNature Photo Expeditions. You can call him on 0408 941 965 or fill in this Contact Form and he will get back to you ASAP.

Use of Perspective In Wildlife Photography – Part Two

Use of Perspective In Wildlife Photography – Part Two

Close Up Polar Bears

Creating A Three-Dimensional Look

Over the many years I have been a wildlife and nature photographer, I have enjoyed experimenting with different lenses for capturing wildlife. This has made it possible to capture so many different types of wildlife images and has kept my photography ‘fresh’ after 26 years of shooting. Using a wide-angle lens such as a 14-24mm on a full frame camera, for example, can help you create interesting and unusual images with a totally different perspective. By getting down at eye level and close to a subject (if it allows you to get close) has created many pleasing images for me over the years. The image of the baby Common wombat featured here, was one of the examples. The use of a wide-angle lens up close exaggerates the three-dimensional look of the image. To me, this close-up wide image creates more of an impact than a nice portrait shot taken from a distance with a longer focal length lens.

Common Wombat

Exercise Patience When Getting Close

I am often asked “how do you get close to wildlife subjects” when using a wide-angle lens. One answer I give is “lots of patience”! With the shot of the pair of Tasman Boobies sitting on a cliff top at Norfolk Island, I spent a couple of hours each morning, over many days, sitting with them, talking calmly and basically letting the birds see that I wasn’t a threat. I would always approach very slowly and quietly and sit, then edge a little closer over time. Wild birds will often let you reasonably close, as long as you don’t make sudden, jerky movement and make lots of noise. With the Tasman Boobies, I was eventually at a stage where the pair sat calmly on the hill, while I was quite close with my wide-angle lens. For this particular shot, I was incredibly fortunate to have the clouds part slightly and the crepuscular rays shone through. All I needed to do was sit still and press the shutter.

During a trip to Macquarie Island in the Subantarctic, we came across some quite mellow Royal Penguins. Not having any predators on the island, after a very successful vermin eradication project over a number of years, the penguins were very chilled indeed! I was sitting on rocks surrounded by these delightful birds and waited. I had a wide-angle lens on my camera and as this pair started interacting, I was able to hone in and focus on that pair, while the other penguins were distant in the background.

Using A Trigger Remote

You may not always be able to get close to your subjects, like some of the examples I have mentioned. Another way to capture wildlife using wide-angle lenses is to set your gear up on a tripod and use a trigger remote. I have done this a few times in situations where the animal regularly does a courtship display or where there is a bathing, feeding or preening spot. You will need to ‘guesstimate’ where the individual may be (or you hope it to be) and pre-focus using manual focus. If you don’t do this and try and use automatic focus, you can’t necessarily control where the focus point will end up in your scene. I use a wireless remote release which allows me to sit a distance away and trigger the shutter, without spooking the subject.

Shoot At Eye Level

Even when using a larger focal length lens, you can achieve a completely different image by getting down at eye level with your subject. By using your widest aperture (smaller number) and focusing on a distant animal, you will often blur out the background and foreground. This blur helps exaggerate the subject. By being low down, the image you shoot can give greater significance to the subject. The viewer of the image therefore ends up having a stronger connection with the subject.

Abstract Wildlife Images

You can also achieve a completely different perspective by focusing in on one particular part of an animal. This could be the feathers of a bird, the fur of a mammal or the scales of a reptile or the eye(s) of a frog. These images are known as abstracts and again, can expand the repertoire of your wildlife images. They can be quite artistic and once you start experimenting, you have endless possibilities. If you can get close to your subjects and are using a macro lens, please remember that depth-of-field can become an issue when shooting so close. Make sure you use a small aperture (in size) to get as much of the detail you are photographing in focus.

Fit More In – Using A Fisheye Lens

Even fish-eye lenses can be used for wildlife photography and will definitely show a different perspective. In the image of the lone penguin standing on a small iceberg, I wanted to show the massive and stunning Antarctic landscape, while showing how tiny a penguin was. It again gives a sense of scale – this tiny bird on a tiny iceberg, in a massive landscape. Having a single zodiac with people in the background emphasises scale even more.

To add a different perspective to a well photographed subject, try also shooting in different light conditions. This may be a silhouette, a reflection or even a shadow of an animal. It often makes the viewer needing to look twice at an image before realising exactly what it is.

The best part of trying new ways to photograph wildlife it is that it is up to your imagination. Do some research as to where you may find certain wildlife subjects, head on out with all the appropriate camera gear and start experimenting. You may ‘fail’ with many shots but you will also succeed with others. As the old saying goes “Nothing Ventured, Nothing Gained”.

If you have a passion for wildlife, nature or travel photography and would love to go on a small-number, professional photography adventure, please get in touch with Michael Snedic at WildNature Photo Expeditions. You can call him on 0408 941 965 or fill in this Contact Form and he will get back to you ASAP.

Use of Perspective In Wildlife Photography – Part One

Use of Perspective In Wildlife Photography – Part One

Polar Bear and Reindeers_980x669


Perspective can make a huge difference when photographing wildlife. Basically, it can change how an image is perceived. A three-dimensional view can be turned into a two dimensional image, by either changing your lens or using a different angle or viewpoint from which you are shooting your subject. You are, in essence, impacting how the viewer of the photo interprets depth in the image they are looking at.

Traditional Methods

Traditionally, most wildlife images are taken with a fixed focal length telephoto lens such as a 300mm f2.8, 500mm f4 or 600mm f4, or by using one of the numerous zoom lenses available on the market. Many of the more popular lenses used in traditional wildlife photography include 100-400mm, 200-400mm, 200-500mm, 150-600mm etc. There are, of course, pros and cons with any of the above-mentioned lenses. Telephoto lenses are usually very sharp and have a wider minimum aperture. This means you can let in more light into your camera, which in turn means a higher shutter speed without needing to crank up the ISO too high (the higher the ISO, the more noise you will end up with). The downside is that these lenses are quite expensive, heavy and if you can’t move from the spot you are photographing (such as sitting in a safari vehicle in Africa, with a lion in front of you) you can’t change your focal length. With a zoom lens, you have more option to compose an image on the spot, they are generally cheaper in price and a bit easier to handhold, weight-wise. The downside here is that they may not be as sharp as a telephoto lens and the minimum aperture will often be smaller in size. For example, the Sigma and Tamron 150-600mm lenses are very versatile but in low light scenarios such as rainforests, the widest aperture you can achieve at 600mm is f6.3. This then slows the shutter speed quite a bit so in turn you have to raise your camera’s ISO considerably in order to get sharp shots.

Animals In The Environment

Apart from the traditional longer telephoto and zoom lenses, you can use a variety of different lenses to achieve a completely different view. Many of the renowned wildlife photography competitions around the world include a category called ‘Animals in the Environment’, where the animal(s) are a small part of a landscape. This gives the viewer a chance to see the animal in its natural environment. Images where you first see an amazing landscape, then realise there is an animal(s) can be quite pleasing on the eye. For the image of the four reindeer and a polar bear in Svalbard, the Arctic, featured in this article, I was in a zodiac with my photography tour participants and I saw the gorgeous light bringing out the blue in the icy landscape. As we approached a little bit closer, I only then noticed the animals. The important part here was to use a small (in size) aperture, therefore creating greater depth-of-field. By using a lens with a smaller focal length, I was able to photograph the landscape as well as the wildlife featured within that landscape. This type of image creates a true sense of scale which may not be evident when photographing the landscape on its own.

If you have a passion for wildlife, nature or travel photography and would love to go on a small-number, professional photography adventure, please get in touch with Michael Snedic at WildNature Photo Expeditions. You can call him on 0408 941 965 or fill in this Contact Form and he will get back to you ASAP.

How To Photograph Birds in Lamington National Park (Green Mountains section)

How To Photograph Birds in Lamington National Park (Green Mountains section)

Eastern Spinebill

World Heritage Listed Lamington National Park, in Queensland, Australia, is an approximate two hour drive from Brisbane or a one hour fifteen minute drive from the Gold Coast. Habitats within the park vary from subtropical and remnant rainforest, ancient Antarctic Beech forest, as well as some sclerophyll and eucalyptus forests. The variety of bird species, therefore, is quite numerous. Many of the birds are used to the presence of people, so they can often be photographed at close range. There are around 245 or so species of birds found within the park, so it is easy to see why so many bird photographers travel there with their cameras from across Australia and the world.

Where To Find Different Bird Species in Lamington National Park:

Ground Dwelling Birds

It is a good idea to pick up a track map of the national park from the local Parks and Wildlife Service office and familiarise yourself with the different tracks within Lamington National Park. Once you choose a track, I suggest spending a bit of time there, letting the birds get used to you being there. The Border track, which has its starts right across the road from O’Reilly’s Rainforest Retreat entrance, is a perfect place to begin. Here you will find a number of ground-dwelling birds including the Bassian and Russet-tailed Thrush, Australian Logrunners and the elusive Whipbird. These birds spend most of their time on the ground, searching for food and interacting with each other. By keeping still and silent, you will be surprised how close the birds will come to you.

Two ground-dwelling species which are high on the list for bird photographers to try and photograph in Lamington N.P. are the Albert’s Lyrebird and the Noisy Pitta. The Albert’s Lyrebird is only found within an approximate 100 kilometres radius of the park. There are none in captivity and they aren’t found anywhere else in the world. The males of the species, once they mature, produce an incredible array of sounds. They are quite proficient at mimicking many of the different bird species in their territory and do so with amazing accuracy. By walking along the boardwalk that takes you towards the tree top walk, you will sometimes see a lyrebird scratching the leaf litter, searching for insects. This is the time to take a few shots – while the bird is ‘preoccupied’.

The second species mentioned, the Noisy Pitta, is one of the most beautifully-coloured birds in Lamington National Park. They hop along the ground and are rarely seen flying. They will often land on the large buttress roots of trees, making for a perfect background. Their call is quite distinct – it sounds like ‘walk to work’ but in a high pitch, which they repeat over and over.

Identifying Birds in Lamington National Park

It can be quite daunting to turn up to a new area such as Lamington National Park and to know where to find them. I recommend photographers purchase one of a number of Australian bird identification Apps that are available for download. Personally, I am a fan of ‘Michael Morecombe’s Birds of Australia’. This app has every Australian bird featured as paintings (male, female and juvenile), the regions where they are found, the nest and eggs as well as the various calls each species of bird makes. I wouldn’t be without it!

Best Way To Photograph Birds in Lamington National Park

Monopod or Tree

Quite a number of the birds in Lamington National Park can be seen around the edges of the rainforest, or along the rainforest tracks. Some of these tracks include the Border, Elabana Falls, Python Rock and Moran’s Falls tracks. As it can be relatively dark in these areas, the issue you may encounter is your camera’s shutter speed will be too low. Sure, you can raise your camera’s ISO to a much higher setting, but that inevitably leads to images with too much noise. What I have been recommending to my photography workshop participants for many years is to look at how you can stabilise your camera and lens in low light situations. I am quite a fan of using a monopod and specifically designed monopod head, to help minimise movement that is caused by hand-holding a camera with a larger lens in low light environments. The monopod allows you to swivel your camera and lens around from left to right (or vica versa) while the monopod head allows you to swivel the camera and lens back and forth. If you don’t own a monopod and are out and about shooting, you can also rest your lens against one of the many trees that grow along the various tracks within the park. This alone will greatly reduce any camera shake.

Suggested Metering For Rainforest Bird Photography

If it’s overcast and you are a rainforest such as Lamington N.P., I suggest using Evaluative Metering (for Canon users), Matrix Metering (for Nikon users) and Multi-pattern or Multi-segment Metering for all other brands. This metering is recommended as your ‘general’ metering for bird photography, especially in overcast, rainforest conditions. If, however, there is bright light behind the bird, Spot Metering (all brands) is recommended. By using Spot Metering, you are metering on the bird itself rather than the whole scene, therefore greatly reducing the chance of the bird ending up as a silhouette.

Practise Your Bird In Flight Techniques

Once a day, O’Reilly’s Rainforest Retreat (situated within Lamington National Park), offer a ‘Free Flight Bird Show’. With a backdrop of trees, a stunning valley below and photogenic mountains in the distance, you have an incredibly beautiful backdrop to shoot the birds against! Some of the birds on display in the show include the Barn and Barking Owl, Nankeen Kestrel, Black Kite and Wedge-tailed Eagle. Being such a large and fairly slow flying bird, the Wedge-tailed Eagle (for example) is the perfect species to practise your birds-in-flight techniques. By using the Continuous Focus setting on your camera, coupled with burst shutter mode, your chances of success in capturing that split-second moment are much greater. Species such as the Barn and Barking Owl will happily sit in one spot, so you have plenty of time to properly compose your image and adjust your camera’s exposure settings.

Best Time To Visit

The best time to visit Lamington National Park, for optimum bird photography opportunities, is spring (September, October, November here in Australia). There is so much activity going on – birds are calling for mates, displaying regularly or raising chicks. It is no wonder that this park is one of my favourite places to visit in Australia for bird photography. Other times of the year are quite decent for photographing birds, but its spring where you will find the most number of birds.

Some Other Species To Look Out For

Satin and Regent Bowerbirds

Both of these stunning birds frequent the area in front of reception at O’Reilly’s Rainforest Retreat. The males take approximately 6-7 years to colour up and once they do, their plumage is quite striking! The native grevilleas that grow either side of the reception entrance are favourite ‘landing sites’ for the bowerbirds. This means you are close to eye level with the birds and it makes for the perfect angle to photograph them. As there is a building where the birds land, care needs to be taken to not to include this distraction in your photo. By simply moving a metre or two to the left or right, you can end up with foliage in the background, that makes for a much more pleasing image.

Eastern Spinebills

While you are our front of the reception area photographing the Satin and Regent Bowerbirds, you will regularly see the Eastern Spinebill hovering like a Hummingbird, feeding on the nectar of the native grevillea bushes. You need to make sure you use a shutter speed of at least 2000th of a second (or higher) especially if you wish to ‘freeze’ the Eastern Spinebill’s wings while it is hovering over the flowers.

Eastern Yellow Robins

The Eastern Yellow Robin is a common bird in Lamington N.P. and can be easily photographed along the various tracks within Lamington National Park, including the Border track, Python Rock track as well as around O’Reillty’s Retreat. The key thing to look out for with these birds is that they will regularly land vertically on the side of a tree, rather than horizontally on a branch. By turning your camera to portrait, you should be able to get some decent images of these birds, often with a blurred-out background.

If you have a passion for wildlife, nature or travel photography and would love to go on a small-number, professional photography adventure, please get in touch with Michael Snedic at WildNature Photo Expeditions. You can call him on 0408 941 965 or fill in this Contact Form and he will get back to you ASAP.

Ropse Robin

Wildlife Photography Composition Tips

Wildlife Photography Composition Tips

Baby Elephant Seal

1. Avoid Placing Your Subject in the Centre of the Frame

Many wildlife photographers, when beginning their photography, place wildlife directly in the centre of the frame. If at all possible, avoid doing this. Instead, compose your image so that the animal’s face is across the intersecting ‘rule-of-third’ lines. If you place the subject in the centre, it often forces the viewer’s eyes to stay on the subject, which can end up producing a very average image. By composing your subject off-centre, it makes for a much more pleasing image, as the viewer will tend to look at what else is surrounding the subject.

2. Shoot at Eye Level

From the very beginning, when I started learning about wildlife photography some 25 years ago, I was told by my photographic mentor to ‘shoot at eye level’. Rather than standing up and pointing your camera and lens down onto an animal that’s on the ground, get down as low as you can. Photographing wildlife at their level is so much more pleasing to the eye.

The same goes for shooting straight up at an animal. Its not always possible to get to their level, but by stepping back a few metres, for example, your composition will be so much nicer. In some cases, if there is a hill nearby or some steps, I suggest walking up the hill or steps so that you are on a similar level as the subject. One exception to this rule, is when there is a bird (or birds) flying above you.

3. Watch out for Distracting Backgrounds

Over the last 20+ years, I have judged thousands upon thousands of images in nature and wildlife photography competitions. So often, I have seen amazing wildlife images, only to be ruined by a very distracting background. If you look at an image and your eye goes straight to the distraction, rather than the subject, it ruins the effect you are trying to convey. By distractions, I am referring to things like man-made objects (buildings, fences, cars etc), bright highlights or blurred out trees and branches. In many situations, you can move around the subject until you have a smooth, blurred out background that doesn’t
compete with the subject.

If your subject is cooperative, I suggest shooting a few frames and then checking the images on the camera’s LCD screen. If a distraction pops out at you ‘like a sore thumb’, then change the angle or direction from which you are photographing. In some instances, if there is a distracting shiny leaf in the background, simply pick it up and move it out of the way. It’s much easier to do this in situ, rather than trying to clone out the distraction during post-processing!
(PS – many nature photography competitions don’t allow cloning of any sort, so best to move the distraction while you are physically out photographing).

4. Focus on the Eyes

One very important rule when photographing wildlife is to focus on the eyes of your subject. If the animal/bird is way out in the distance and tiny in the frame, then focusing on the actual subject is fine. But if you are closer, then it’s the eye that your camera’s focus point should be on. When viewing an image, whether it be online, in a publication or as a framed print, it doesn’t work as well if the eyes aren’t in focus. The first thing we tend to look at when looking at an image of an animal is the eyes, so it makes perfect sense to focus on them. In some instances, such as when you are photographing wildlife in an abstract or arty way, this rule doesn’t count but for most situations, it is very important.

5. Best use of Negative Space

An alternative to tight or close up shots of wildlife is the use of ‘negative space’ in wildlife photography. This is where the subject is a very small part of the image and looks out or is travelling across a vast landscape. In many wildlife photography competitions, the category ‘animals in the environment’ has become increasingly popular. The aim of such images is to capture on camera not only an interesting image of an animal, but also the environment in which this particular species lives. A stunning landscape, coupled with the subject, can make for some impressive shots. The space around the subject can greatly change the viewer’s perception of the image they are looking at. Basically, the negative space around a subject can tell the ‘story’ of the image.

In Conclusion

The best thing I can suggest is to get out there with your camera and try some of these techniques. Practise, try new techniques, then practise some more.

If you have a passion for wildlife, nature or travel photography and would love to go on a small-number, professional photography adventure, please get in touch with Michael Snedic at WildNature Photo Expeditions. You can call him on 0408 941 965 or fill in this Contact Form and he will get back to you ASAP.

Bird Photography Techniques – Avoid Cloning Same Backgrounds

Bird Photography Techniques – Avoid Cloning Same Backgrounds

Splendid Fairy Wren

I love seeing images of other bird photographers. There are plenty of shots posted daily on places such as Facebook and Instagram and it’s great to se such variety. There are some exceptional photographers out there but one thing I have noticed is the noticeable increase in bird images where the background has been either cloned out or ‘blurred’. Yes, it makes the bird(s) stand out but plenty of photographers are using the same peach/pastel backgrounds, rendering the images ‘more of the same’.

To do this occasionally is fine, in my opinion, but to do this for every single image can become quite monotonous. I have been teaching bird photography techniques for 17 years+ and have always taught participants to ‘get it right in camera’, out in the field. You can the process your image, of course, but by using a natural background that’s blurred out, it is a much more pleasing image.

In some cases, you can easily see a halo or white mark around the bird, where the cloning or blurring wasn’t done well. To me, that completely spoils the image. I have also seen where photographers have blurred the background and the blurred sections have been used multiple times and are identical to each other, something that again spoils the image.

Sure, there are definitely instances where the bird(s) are in a spot where you have no choice but to takes shots as is, regardless of the unsightly background. In those examples, you can work on your background on the computer, so that the bird doesn’t get ‘lost’ in the image. I, however, have NEVER cloned a background and it has always been my aim to work that bit harder to get it right, out in the field.

Removing a blade or two of grass or a twig is common practice in post, using the Spot Healing Brush and Content Aware Fill, in Photoshop, but the image remains as close to authentic as possible.

I must add that there is nothing wrong with cloning backgrounds out and replacing them, if that’s what you enjoy doing. It is, in the end, a personal choice. Just try not doing the SAME cloning/blurring for shot after shot.

Lastly, if you are entering nature photography competitions, please read the rules very carefully, as they vary from competition to competition. Some, such as Wildlife Photographer of the Year’ in the U.K., don’t allow any cloning whatsoever and you must provided the original RAW file on request, if you are selected for the finals.

In the end, do what makes you happy and feels right. I’m only suggesting you don’t become a ‘clone’ with every single image you process : – ))

 If you are interested in developing your bird photography skills, Michael has a two-day bird photography workshop coming up in the QLD Bunya Mountains.

If you have a passion for wildlife, nature or travel photography and would love to go on a small-number, professional photography adventure, please get in touch with Michael Snedic at WildNature Photo Expeditions. You can call him on 0408 941 965 or fill in this Contact Form and he will get back to you ASAP.

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