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Wildlife 101

When I used to work in a camera store, people always asked me how to prepare for their trip to take better pictures.  Some of them would be going on a once in a lifetime adventure to places like Africa, Brazil, or Alaska.  They were purchasing their new camera and then wanting to capture amazing photos in just a few weeks.  First of all, I don’t recommend this to anyone,  if you know you are planning a trip start early with learning how to use your new camera.  However, I wanted to help them as much as I could so the first step was telling them to practice practice practice.  With the transfer into the digital world practice is cheap and you can view instantly your progress.  So how do you teach someone how to shoot wildlife in just a few weeks so they don’t waste their trip.  I started thinking where can one find wildlife that is readily available, easily accessible, and natural environments.  One day as I was sitting on my deck watching two squirrels chase each other it hit me, here is the perfect solution. I came up with a series of exercises to photograph squirrels and chipmunks that would increase the probability of making an amazing photograph on their adventure. If you can take a good picture of  one of these little creatures, then you should be able to capture a lion or bear when it is sitting in a picture perfect setting.  Over the next few blogs we will be discussing some of these exercises to help improve your photos.  The first lesson is the profile picture.  A clean background is very important so that it is not distracting to the subject.  You can achieve a clean background in two ways, the first is to make sure your subject is in front of a nice picturesque background.  That might be a little difficult to reposition a wild animal.  The other option, and the choice of many is to eliminate the background.  You can achieve this by changing the aperture of the lens to its largest opening in the range of 2.8 to 4.0.  This change reduces the depth of field your camera can record revealing a blurred, soft background, as seen above, causing your subject to stand out. Another thing to take into consideration is to capture a flattering pose.  Just as if you were taking a picture of a human, you want to consider the some of the same techniques.  First is eye contact. In a profile picture eye contact is critical to create an interaction with your viewers. Second, you want to make sure the head position is natural and not distorted.  This takes a little patience to wait for the right moment to get a natural looking head profile.  The last thing to cover in this lesson is you want it to be sharp.  The most frustrating thing is a great picture that is soft and no detail.  In shooting an animal portrait, detail is very critical to give definition and dimension to your image.  To achieve sharp detail you must use a tripod or some stabilizing devise to steady your camera.  Now that you have a few tips go out in your backyard and take a few pictures and practice practice practice.

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