We all love going back to nature and click some wildlife, specially the big cats the Tigers and Leopards in the jungles. But not all of us have big lenses that are needed to click wildlife from a safe distance that does not put you or the animal in any kind of harm.
Also one needs to remember that unlike professional wildlife photographers who spend a lot of time in wild life reserves, most of us go there once in a while only for a day or two, the rest of the time our gear is just lying idle So one needs to decide if one wants to buy a really long and expensive lens for those once in a year kind of trip to Wildlife sanctuaries.
But even if you do not have a long lens there are a few things you can do to capture wildlife only we need to increase our scope and get creative with our approach. Here is what I do with my 55-300 to get all the wildlife pictures I can. I always believe rather than always trying to acquire the latest and the greatest gear I should try and use my current gear to the fullest before spending more and more money.
1. Capture Habitat: With a 200-300 mm lens to capture wildlife don’t just focus on capturing the headshots of the wildlife try and capture the habitat, the surroundings, of the animals. A close of shot of a tiger could have been taken in a zoo, but when you show the tiger along with its surrounding it adds a lot of drama to the picture. While everybody around me was busy taking close-up shots of the tiger in Tadoba, I saw this forest guard on the motor cycle coming towards us, he has not seen the tiger nor has the tiger seen him. The motorcycle and the tiger together with photographers trying to click the tiger make the picture different from the most tiger pictures.
2. Capture a group: A single animal looks lonely but as a group it can be fascinating, I captured these blackbucks in sunset in Tal Chapar Sanctuary Rajasthan As they were at a distance, I could not get a good shot of a single black buck that is when I decided to capture the whole herd as they were returning to their night halt place, the running movement of blackbucks as a herd gives a sense of direction and action to the picture.
3. Go after Big Game: While a small colourful bird on the other side of lake may need a 600 mm lens to capture the colours, if you are shooting elephants or bison even your 200 mm will do a decent job to capture them.
4. Go Small: Wild life is not only Elephants and tigers; there are thousands of small mammals, reptiles, insects, spiders waiting to be clicked. Most of them are not dangerous and if you maintain a respectable distance they offer great photo opportunity as a lot of them have Camouflage as their survival as their strategy, and freeze thinking you cannot see them. Check this bug which caught my attention as I was waiting for some birds to come out of bushes.
5. Go to your Backyard: Yes, right in our backyards, local gardens, and even on the birdbath provided in the balcony there are opportunities waiting to be clicked. I like to go a bit early in morning specially to click chameleons when they are still soaking the early morning sun and are not very agile. This Oriental Garden lizard was clicked right below our balcony in the apartment complex itself.
6. Wait for action: In typical wildlife scenario jeeps take you around the Jungle till you see an animal crossing your paths, then you wait. I suggest you do the opposite, if you are looking for birds in city find out their hangouts, a local lake, a favourite tree, a flowering bush and let the action come to you. Waterholes are a great place to wait for some action. I was rewarded with this shot while just enjoying cool breeze under a tree next to a watering hole in Tal Chapar sanctuary when this doe and eagle came together to drink water.
7. Know the Habits of your subjects: Most birds and animals are creatures of habit and love to visit same place again and again. While walking on the banks of pond close to my home I found this bamboo fence full of bird droppings. I just waited for 5 minutes when this white throated Kingfisher came and settled on the fence to do his thing.
8. Create your own opportunity: Wildlife photography is totally unpredictable and is dependent on you, the animal, and light all meeting together in a single moment in time and space and the perfect moment does not wait if you are not ready. How about creating some of it on your own? Install a birdbath where you can see it from your room. On hot summer days birds will love to come there and take a dip giving you the perfect snaps at close range. Just make sure you don’t scare them away.
9. Go for Silhouettes: At times the bird or animal is so far off that you cannot go for a clear shot, these are the times when I go for Silhouettes. The trick is simple with the Sun behind the subject, you set your exposure based on the brightest object in the frame (typically that would be Sun), this will make the subject dark and give a dramatic effect to the shape of the bird. Sunsets are best for clicking Silhouettes and if you know a favourite perching branch of a bird just wait there (like in point 7) and you will be rewarded with a dramatic shot.
10. Experiment with Abstract: While the purist will frown and may want to go for my jugular, but what is an art form without a little bit of experimentation? Sometimes I just go crazy with my image editing software and try to create abstracts out of my images. It is a very personal thing but worth trying. Check this reflection of a pigeon in a pond.
So friends these are some of my mantras for clicking wildlife with the gear I have, rather than wait for the next big lens I just go out and try to make the most of what I have got. For photography for me is not to wait for the next big thing but go out and click with whatever I have and challenge myself as the well as the gear to test the limits.
About the author: Prasad Np is an award winning lifestyle, travel & wildlife photographer and writer, he writes the popular family travel blog from India- desi Traveler. You can connect with him on Facebook & Twitter