Michael Snedic using a heavy lens

In order to photograph wildlife, including birds, lenses with long focal lengths are preferred, especially if these subjects are far away. The only problem is that in many cases, longer focal lengths mean heavier lenses. These lenses can be too cumbersome to lift and carry for many people and they are often too big to take onboard in your carry on luggage. The heavier lenses can also make hand-holding quite difficult as well, especially if your aim is to get pin-sharp shots, without movement. Below are some suggestions to make life easier when using large, heavy lenses:

  1. If photographing wildlife/birds that remain in one spot for a while, such as bathing areas, feeding spots or courtship areas, the best way to keep a heavy lens steady is to use a gimbal on a tripod. Gimbals, such as the popular Wimberley brand, make it very easy to move your camera and lens in all directions.
  2. For situations where you need to move around to find subjects, or follow them due to their movement, a monopod with a dedicated monopod head is something I have used successfully for many years. This combination is much lighter to carry around than a gimbal and tripod, but still allows for decent stability.
  3. When photographing from a moving vehicle, such as from 4 wheel drives during the many African Photo Safaris I have presented over the years, a beanbag is a priceless piece of equipment to use. Beanbags help stabilise the camera and lens amazingly well. They are either supplied for use by the tour operator or you can purchase different styles and fill them with seed, rice or beans.
  4. If there are situations where you don’t have, or are unable to use a gimbal, monopod or bean bag, hand-holding can be made easier by leaning the lens against a post or tree.
  5. If out in the field and hand-holding a big lens is the only option, using the correct technique is very important if you want to get sharp shots. One method I have taught for the last 15 years on my photography workshops and tours, is to breath in, then out and at the end of the out breath, take your shots. Your body will be steady and not moving up and down due to your breathing.

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.

Teaching in Tassie

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