Photo spot: How to get the shot

Lamar Gore is an avid nature photographer. Today, he provides us with some tips on capturing the best shots  with nature and wildlife photography. Photo credit: James Weliver

Lamar Gore is an avid nature photographer and is an assistant refuge supervisor for national wildlife refuges in the Northeast. Today, he provides us with some tips on capturing the best photos of nature and wildlife.
Photo credit: James Weliver

I shoot nature photography, because the natural world and the wonders created there capture my heart. There’s a beauty that is difficult to put into words in the natural world, which I put into words through shooting. Much nature photography, when related to wildlife either comes in long hours or early morning hours of planning or waiting. Sometimes, you are given an unplanned opportunity, but these are a small percentage.

One of the first key points I’ll state has little to do with any photography skill, and that is to always take your photos at the highest possible quality on your camera. You never know when you are going to shoot “that one”.

Let’s get onto some common areas that will affect your photography. Photography is about light, plain and simple. Visualizing it, capturing it and manipulating it with your camera can make the difference in any photo. Of course shaky hands can kill a photo too, but let’s assume for the moment, that isn’t the issue.

This photo is what you can accomplish by slowing your shutter speed down, which makes the water look like clouded glass and cotton.  Shutter speeds that can accomplish this are in the range of 1/6 of a second lower, but you should play with the speeds to get your desired effect. Photo courtesy of Lamar Gore

Photo courtesy of Lamar Gore

Light and manipulating it
When you’re ready to shoot, what draws you is the light, your subject, the angle it hits your subject, and the intensity of the light.  Your camera captures photos by allowing the ambient light to pass through your lens to hit your camera’s sensor (imaging surface).  You have two basic tools to control this, which are your shutter speed and your f-stop (aperture). Shutter speed controls how long the light hits your sensor, and the f-stop controls how much light hits your sensor.  Learning how to manipulate these together and how they affect your final image will be very useful to you. The photo of the waterfall on the right shows what you can accomplish by slowing your shutter speed down, which makes the water look like clouded glass and cotton. Shutter speeds that can accomplish this are in the range of 1/6 of a second lower, but you should play with the speeds to get your desired effect.

This is an example of a failed attempt at capturing a puffin flying by, while on a boat.  Tracking was ok, but my focal point was off.  You have to hit every mark to make the shot happen. Photo courtesy of Lamar Gore

This is an example of a failed attempt at capturing a puffin flying by, while on a boat. Tracking was ok, but my focal point was off. You have to hit every mark to make the shot happen. Photo courtesy of Lamar Gore

Shutter speed 
When shooting action photos (a bird flying from left to right or a deer running), you typically want to freeze the action with your camera.  The only way to accomplish this is to increase your shutter speed.  I would recommend 1/500 of a second or more.  However, you also want to “track” with the moving target.  In other words, as it’s moving left to right, get it in focus and follow to the right with your camera, as you shoot pivot your body and camera toward the right.  Other factors that will affect your success here are your ISO (film speed) and aperture.  Increasing your film speed (from 100 to 400) will allow you to shoot in lower lighting conditions.  However, depending on your camera, you could see more noise in your photo.  You should test this out and decide on your preference.

This shot is best done with a tripod, unless you have a killer image stabilization on your lens.  Sometimes you want to use spot metering, but in this case, I used overall metering. Photo courtesy of Lamar Gore

This shot is best done with a tripod, unless you have a killer image stabilization on your lens. Sometimes you want to use spot metering, but in this case, I used overall metering. Photo courtesy of Lamar Gore

Metering
The last thing that will affect all your images is the way in which your camera meters your scene.  Metering can be controlled on most cameras today.  They usually come in these categories 1) spot meter, 2) center weighted, 3) evaluative/overall, etc.  The last category has been called many things, depending on your camera manufacturer.  In short, metering affects how the camera exposes your image for overall light in your photo.  The three categories are just as they sound.  If you have a scene that is lit in only one area (a person under a light) and you choose spot metering and put the center spot on the illuminate person.  The camera will make sure the person is exposed correctly.  Center weighted exposes the image for a larger area, and evaluative exposes for the entire area.  All three use averages in the focal area.

Let us know how these tips help you capture some great nature shots. Do you have any nature photography tips that you’d like to share?

4 Comments on “Photo spot: How to get the shot

  1. Pingback: Fine Tune Your Exposures With Spot Metering | Yasmin Ibrahim For Photography

  2. Pingback: 5 Tips on How to Take Great Outdoor Photos

  3. Pingback: Happy Birthday, National Wildlife Refuge System! | U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Northeast Region

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