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Wildlife Photography Tips

Wildlife Photography Tips

The most common question our workshop participants as is related to camera settings for wildlife. So we wanted to put out a basic guide for everyone.

When shooting anything that the primary concern is a moving subject it makes the most sense to use shutter priority because you are selecting the shutter speed to freeze (or intentionally blur) the movement. There are ways to force the aperture value if you have a desired depth of field.

Shutter Priority

First thing you need to do is switch the shooting mode selection off Av (or A, depending on the brand camera) and put it on Tv (or S, depending on the brand camera). Now you need to know what shutter speeds are needed to freeze (or blur) the subject. Here is a basic guide:

SubjectExamplesLittle / No MovementWalking / Moderate SpeedRunning / In Flight
Small Game
Coyote, Bobcat
1/500-1500
1/1500-1/2000
1/2000+
Large Game
Elk, Deer, Horses
1/250 -1/500
1/500-1500
1/1500+
Large Birds
Heron, Eagles
1/500-1/1000
1/1000-1/1500
1/1500+
Small Brids
Cardinals, Nuthatch, Robin
1/1000-1/1500
1/1500-1/2000
1/2000+

Even though those are a good starting point, you should always start with a shutter speed that is equal to or greater than  your focal length. shooting at 400mm then you should have 1/400 or faster, 200mm then 1/200 or faster, 100mm  then 1/100, etc. Round up to the nearest setting your camera offers.

Adjustable focal point

You definitely want a selectable focal point and be able to move it. That joystick or the touch screen is the best way. The joysticks may need to be set in the custom options to do this. Birds in flight or other fast moving subjects, you also want to try expanded focal points. The Sony A7/A9 has some pretty good detection software, but the small focal point or expanded is a better option in most cases.

Continuous Focusing

Some cameras offer a few varieties but the continuous focusing/tracking is a must for moving subjects. Canon calls it AI Servo, Nikon & Sony call is AF-C. In either case wherever you have a selected focal point your camera will track that point.

AF-ON or OFF

Most people know this as “Back button focus” Canon, Nikon, Sony call all have a button configured to be a back button focus but you can also configure it to be a focus stop button which work great with continuous focus. For example, your subject stops moving and you want to compose your shot in camera, you press the button and focus is locked while you have the button pressed. Many newer lenses for mirrorless systems also have buttons on them that can be configured to do this as well.

Learn to read the histogram

If the curve touches the right then you have pure white (or stuff is over exposed to pure white). If the curve touches the left then pure black (or stuff is under exposed so much it’s just black). In either extreme no data is available. The pYou really don’t need to worry about the peaks, just if there is one touching the right or left sides.

The goal would be to adjust your exposure compensation to get the graph as close to the right as possible.  

Focusing the Aperture

If you shoot in shutter priority but want to force increased or decreased depth of field (the aperture value) then adjust the ISO. You can shot using Auto ISO and you camera will select the lowest ISO and widest aperture like usual. But, if you set your minimum ISO to 400 your camera will decrease the base aperture (higher f stop value), now if your light goes away your camera will increase the ISO. 

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Monopods

Monopods

While tripods are a necessity for landscapes or if you use a gimbal head, a monopod is the perfect tool for any time you are shooting over 300mm.

There are a few key things to know when purchasing a monopod. 

  1. load rating – do not buy a monopod that is only rated for the weight of your camera & lens combo. You need to factor in adding some of your own weight. you will inevitably lean on the camera or lens (and you should to increase steadiness)
  2. Height – open and closed. Its really nice that the closed height is closed to your chin height while sitting or kneeling. Max extended height should be as closed to your body height as you can get or higher. 
  3. Head – you need a monopod head. yes, you will be able to connect the monopod directly to your lens foot or camera. However, screwing it off and on gets old very fast. You would also be likely to strip the treads of the monopod or worse your camera or lens foot. When shooting down to lower elevations or up into trees, the tilting ability a monopod head makes shooting much more comfortable than without.
  4. Budget – Just like tripods, there are many to choose from and prices are all over the place. We would like to reccomend brands we have used or workshop participants have used with great success.

Monopod Leg

Premium brands are worth the money if they are in your budget. They can be disassembled for cleaning, and the companies stand behind their products. We have used Really Right Stuff for over 12 years. The same monopod, and its still working great. We also have a ProMediaGear monopod that is now about 3 years old and looks brand new. It features a building quick release and metal, instead of rubber, leg adjustments but they are easy to operate even when we.

We truly put our gear to the test and these 2 truly hold up. The only thing, which is recommended by the manufacturer as well, is to use thread lock when you attach the foot.

If you are on a tighter budget, we were surprised at the quality of the Amazon Basics Monopod. We have seen it hold up to the Alaska test. Volcanic mud, sea water, gravel, black sand, rain… no issues. And, under $100!!

Monopod Heads

Unlike tripod heads that articulate to allow leveling, monopod heads are 1 axis tilting heads. A ball head from a tripod can be used, but it will be a challenge and most people pinch their hand and fingers when the camera falls over.  

Monopod heads should have a quick release. Acra is the standard. If you do not have the area plates already, get one for every lens you will utilize the with monopod

Again, we have Really Right Stuff with the lever style quick release. Same as the leg, they have lasted and still solid. No issues what so ever.

Pro Media Gear’s head is really nice as well. It does have a knob style quick release vs the lever, but it uses a unique tension system. The tension knob it actually in a great place if you are using a zoom lens.

Now if you are on a tight budget, Desmond offers a significantly less expensive option. The construction is solid and the tilting action is smooth and locking it down is tight. 

The trade off with the less expensive options are the warrantee, load capability and overall construction. If you are using a 100-400mm lens or similar and need a light weight and affordable support they will definitely get the job done, but I would not expect it to last the 10 years we have tested the premium brands.

GP Walsh Photography is Affiliated with various marketing programs. Including, not not limited to, Adobe, Smugmug, Skylum, and Adobe. Links on our site may result in revenue for the referral to, or purchase of, products or software. We take pride in only recommending products or software that we personally experiences with. 
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The Power of the CPL Filter

The Power of the CPL Filter

A CPL filter is a circular polarizing filter. There are used to reduce glare or reflections from glass, water, leaves or even the sky. CPL filters work the best when the light source is 90 degrees from the subject to yield the greatest effect. 

The effects can really be dramatic. When photographing landscapes they can greatly enhance the sky to bring out nice deep blues. On water a CPL can  reduce all those glare spots that block the rocks below the surface or a nice reflection of the sky above.

If you are into wildlife, a CPL can save the day in harsh light. In this image the sun was high above during late morning. If we under expose to get the detail that is full of glare, the shadows would be completely black. The CPL reduced the glare and normalized the light significantly. 

There are a lot of brands out there. We really like Breakthrough Photography. Their filters offer solid construction, no color cast, no wiggle, weather sealed, excellent light transmission, and they retain sharpness. Oh, and they have a 25 year guarantee.

Ready to buy one? Click here: Breakthrough Photography X4 CPL Filters

Click the link above, and head to Breakthrough Photography’s amazon store. Simply select the thread size for you lens and happy shooting!

GP Walsh Photography is Affiliated with various marketing programs. Including, not not limited to, Adobe, Smugmug, Skylum, and Adobe. Links on our site may result in revenue for the referral to, or purchase of, products or software. We take pride in only recommending products or software that we personally experiences with. 
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Tripods

Tripods

If you have used a tripod before and you were not happy with it, you may not have liked how flimsy it was, how it wasn’t strong enough for your camera, or was not easy to open or close. If you are shopping currently you may have found so many brands and styles to choose from or the prices range from $50 to well over $1000. You may also be surprised that the head and legs are sold separately. We hope we can steer you in the right direction.

Legs

First thing you will want to make sure you are getting carbon fiber legs. Aluminum tripods are less expensive for sure, but carbon fiber is strong and light. the best brands are also using twist locks on the legs. If you have tried them in the past and did not like them, you should try them again. Newer tripods are using larger diameter tubes and that means easier to grip locks.

Want the best and have no budget to stand in your way? you are presented with 2 options. Really Right Stuff or Pro Media Gear. There are a few video style tripods, but thats truly a different discussion.

RRS and PMG both start over $1000. Both brands are amazing! If you can swing the typical $1500 price tag, then definitely shop their websites to get the right size for you. The legs should expand to about your body height or more and be able to go as low as you get go. Other than that, you really can’t go wrong with either of their line ups. Another brands that usually meat this price is Gitzo, there are a few others, but we have seen many of these have their issues. 

For the more budget conscience, the choices get greatly more difficult.If you are in the $300-$500 range, you may be looking at Benro. other brands are Manfrotto (a long standing name in the industry), Induro, Leofoto, and Sirui. 

If you are on an even tighter budget, its going to get more difficult. One brand we have and still use today, is Innorel. A little known name but we can verify they are solid tripods. 

Heads

Just like the legs the big names are still RRS and PMG. They are solid pieces of equipment and have proven they can handle rough treatment. RRS does offer different sizes which is really helpful for your wallet.

Due to Really Right Stuff’s popularity a lot of knock offs are available now. Benro and Innorel both make a ballhead that look very capable. 

Much like the tripod legs, these brands all make their own heads. Our suggestion is to get a head rated for at least 2x-3x the weight of your camera and lens. 

GP Walsh Photography is Affiliated with various marketing programs. Including, not not limited to, Adobe, Smugmug, Skylum, and Adobe. Links on our site may result in revenue for the referral to, or purchase of, products or software. We take pride in only recommending products or software that we personally experiences with. 
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Storing You Images

Storing Your Images

If you are saving you raw images only to your computer’s hard drive you will eventually be very upset when you run out of space or, worse yet, have a hard drive failure.

The first thing you should be doing is importing your images from your camera directly to an external hard dive.

  • First and foremost an external drive will be used less than your primary drive, which means it will last longer.
  • Second, external drives often offer larger storage capacities. They can easily be swapped out for another drive when you fill one as well.
  • Third you computer will actually run faster. This is because you are not using the same hard drive that you computer is using for processing.

There are several options when it comes to adding external hard drives. There are desktop models, portable drives, and more recently solid state drives (SSD)

The general structure we follow is this…. We have 2 desktop 8TB external drives per year.. a 2020 and a 2020 backup. Smaller sizes are available. Typically 4TB or 5TB. While traveling we used to carry at least one portable external drive the was 4TB. Now we have upgraded to portable SSD drives. SSD drives are more durable, shock resistant, and read/write faster than standard hard drives.

Once home, we transfer the files from the SSD to the desktop drives.

GP Walsh Photography is Affiliated with various marketing programs. Including, not not limited to, Adobe, Smugmug, Skylum, and Adobe. Links on our site may result in revenue for the referral to, or purchase of, products or software. We take pride in only recommending products or software that we personally experiences with. 
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Marlys Brooks

I had the opportunity on January 9th to go with George and Patty to see the wild horses. I was very impressed with their information on my camera and also about the horses. We saw many horses and I took many photos. I highly recommend them.

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Kari Barchenger

I recently took a tour with Patty & George to photograph the Salt Lake Wild Horses. I had so much fun with them. They were able to locate several bands of horse throughout the day, where if I had gone by myself I would have wondered aimlessly looking for them.
I highly recommend them if you are looking for a great photo adventure.

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Kathy Hansen

We booked an afternoon tour with extended family – the five of us joined up with Pattie & George… and within minutes they had us right with the herd! They take the time to explain about the bands within the herd, the struggles the herd has and the environment they are in… It was educational and just so fun! To be amongst the wild horses in an area where there are no buildings and power lines you can almost feel like you are in the Wild West. I highly recommend you take some time for this rare opportunity.

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Christine Pence

Pattie and George have some pretty awesome photo tours that bring the photographer in contact with wildlife and nature. Bears, horses, and all sorts of adventure in Namibia, Africa at reasonable prices with reasonable accommodations and lots of camaraderie with other photographers are part of each tour I have experienced.  Both have unique talents that they bring to their participants including technical photographic and editing skills.  The best part of each of these trips is the learning and sharing before, after, and during the trips. Treat yourself to one of their tours and have some fun learning, exchanging, and living the discovery of life outside of home.