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 the 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.

Lone Adelie Penguin

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.

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