Sam is our first guest blogger for 2012. He’s a passionate wildlife photographer and he tells me this is the one thing he wishes he new when he started, so pay attention class 🙂
Hopefully the following tutorial should give you an idea in to how most of my images have been taken. Although I am quite a technical photographer, always concerned about apertures and shutter speeds, this is often not too important when considering potential images.
For me the most important factor when considering wildlife images is getting at eye level with the subject. Weather its at ground level with a small mouse or at head height with a curious Robin, the lens should be as close to level with the subjects eyes as possible. If this means that you have to lie in the mud or in a puddle then…. well it just has to be done to get the shots!
If a bird is feeding on the ground and you photograph it from a standing position the background of the image will be the grass a few inches behind the bird. This means that it is likely to be still in focus and therefore distracting from the main subject matter. If however you take a shot of the same bird, from a low angle, preferably while lying on the ground, the background of the image will be far away. Probably the hedge on the other side of the garden! This means that it is likely to be out of focus. And out of focus background usually helps the subject stand out and draw the viewer’s attention. Also by being eye level with the subject the image becomes a lot more personal and intermit.
This shot of a male Kestrel was taken on the North Coast of Cornwall, in over cast weather as the sun was starting to set. I saw the male land on the ground about 20 meters in front of me. I agree with you, if your saying this was just luck, because it was! However you make your own luck I believe, and I try to be out as much as possible with a camera, so I can potentially experience these lucky moments if they happen.
I instantly got as low as possible. I dropped my camera bag next to me and watched the kestrel settle on to its perch. I waited a minute or so until it was completely settled and stated to preen. I then used the long grass in the foreground to breakup my outline as I crawled closer to the subject. I did not want to get too close for a number of reasons. Primarily, I did not want to disturb the bird from its perch. Secondly I wanted to keep the bird small in the frame to aid my composition.
Once I was in position I lowered the lens to the ground and focused on the bird. Just in front of me was a small hill covered in long grass. I placed the grass between my camera and the subject with the kestrel just in focus through a gap in grass on the left of the hill. This is what has caused the out of focus foreground.
The out of focus background is a grass covered hill about 20 meters behind the subject.
My lens has a minimum focusing distance of 2.5 meters. So by placing objects in front of the lens closer than 2.5 meters they will appear out of focus. So always bear in mind to look for something in front of the subject to help blur the foreground. It works well with leaves in front of birds on branches to help create a bit of colour in the image.
I hope this has helped, and by all means send me any shots and I will do my best to help you out with improving them if I can. You can contact me at www.samstewartphoto.org
Visit Sam Stewart – website