Today I would like to introduce you to Emily Carter Mitchell who has kindly done a guest blog for you on Nature and Wildlife Photography. Emily is perhaps more widely known as Bella Remy Photography and her blog, Hoof Beats and Foot Prints. So please enjoy what she has prepared for you.
Nature and Wildlife Photographer Emily Carter Mitchell of Bella Remy Photography
Being a nature and wildlife photographer is an expression of the true spirit within oneself. There is something about the solitude and communing with the natural world around you that brings a sense of serenity within.
What brought me to become a nature and wildlife photographer? Well, you can blame it on the Bald Eagles at Conowingo Dam in Darlington, Maryland. It is here where large numbers of nature photographer’s line up along a fence line in the winter months, with their big fancy lenses and hot rod cameras. Only to stand waiting for hours to capture the perfect moment.
It means getting up at four in the morning to arrive at a National Wildlife Refuge pre-dawn to be able to capture first light and the most wildlife activity. It’s standing and waiting in strange places like tall fields of grass or deep in the woods with the mosquitoes.
But capturing the perfect moment is the payoff.
Capturing birds and wildlife takes character. It takes someone with patience and the desire to discover the beauty nature has to offer. It takes field preparation, the right equipment and technical know-how.
There are a number of tools available to the nature and wildlife photographer in preparation of a photographic outing. Starting with several smart phone applications such as the “Photographer’s Epheris” which provides sunrise/sunset and moonrise/moonset locations for any location at any time.
Then there are bird identification and additional nature identification apps such as the Audubon series. (link: http://www.audubonguides.com/field-guides/mobile-apps.html)
Finally, each park or natural refuge offers plentiful information online about their location with trail maps and things you need to know.
Now that you know what you’re looking for, and where you’re going to look for it, the next thing to consider are the weather and insect conditions on the outing.
In wintertime, I’ve seen many people come out for a three hour bird photography workshop clearly underdressed. In spite of advance warning, they neglect proper footwear, wind or rain jackets and layered clothing. In the summertime, many are unprotected from mosquitoes and ticks which are known to carry illnesses and diseases.
Protect yourself, inform yourself, pack your kit well.
The basic tools for a nature and wildlife photographer is a high quality DLSR, a Telephoto lens, and most importantly, a sturdy tripod. This being said, I’ve seen excellent bird images captured with a Canon SX50 from someone who knows her camera well. It has an equivalent 800-1000mm reach and is lightweight, portable and affordable.
For the ‘big dogs’ like you see spending time at Conowingo Dam, both Canon and Nikon are represented with telephotos with at least a 400mm reach. Both Sigma and Tamron offer more affordable super telephoto lenses, although the prime lenses with Canon and Nikon have superior image quality.
The longer you go, the more sensitive the camera is to motion. A tripod is essential for those crisps and in-focus shots. It is the one thing any photographer can do to instantly improve their images.
Understanding your camera well and being able to change your settings quickly is essential for field success. Many wildlife photographers I meet prefer to shoot in Aperture Priority mode. They then set their ISO based on lighting conditions and let the camera decide the shutter speeds.
Chasing birds through the bush can create changing lighting conditions from one frame to the next. A quick hand on the dials helps you get the shot.
Knowing where to go and what you’re looking for is only the start on the great nature and wildlife photography hunt. It’s the thrill of the chase and learning the nature’s behavior and how to not disrupt their activity with your presence.
Calm quiet and patience is what gets the shot. I’ve had to learn how to be patient and wait for the birds to come to me. Stand long enough and they get used to your presence and go back to their ordinary business.
I’ve also had to learn how to slowly walk towards the bird while pretending that I’m not interested in him at all.
More recently I’ve been known to hide behind a blind and wait for an hour before I was able to capture the perfect moment.
Truly successful nature and wildlife photographer extend beyond the ‘bird on a stick’ image. They invoke some type of emotion, an expression, a life moment or scene setting. It is these images that practice and thousands of images gets the shot.
Many days my memory card has been full and nearly all of the shots were throw-aways. It is part of the learning process and nothing is better than frequent field practice to capture the images that you want.
Nearly all of the time, the bird is just but a small part within the frame and cropping is necessary to create a compelling image.
The standard Rules of Thirds applies, along with leading lines, clean backgrounds and complementary scenery around the bird.
LIghtroom 5 is my preferred post processing software. I can quickly go through a filmstrip of 800 images and pick out the best images and work on them. I keep the best, and throw away the rest.
Shooting exclusively in RAW, I’m able to adjust white balance as necessary and continue down the sliders and adjust contrast, highlights, shadows, whites, blacks, clarity, vibrance, sharpening and noise reduction.
Also selecting the lowest ISO possible in the field helps with image quality, and knowing my camera’s ISO threshold sensitivity ensures a better quality image.
When I started photography four years ago, little did I know that I would grow into a nature and wildlife photographer. It’s passion that is ever challenging and the people that you meet out in the field are as interested in nature as you are.
I’m looking forward to hear from you and if you enjoy nature as much as I do.
A grand thank you is extended to Leanne Cole in allowing me to share my story.
I would like to take this opportunity to thanks Emily for a fantastic post on Nature and Wildlife Photography. I got so much out of it and hope that I can get some better shots around here, though I am sure nothing will compare with what she has done. Don’t forget to go and visit here blog, Hoof Beats and Foot Prints. Thank you Emily and I hope you don’t mind if I put your beautiful images in a gallery for people to enjoy on their own.