Beautiful Northeast Iowa is a great place to see wildlife and the fabulous scenery makes a wonderful backdrop for stunning photographs. Wildlife photography is an art. It takes patience, practice and a little bit of know-how to get that perfect souvenir shot. Here are some top tips for photographing wildlife.
Patience is a Virtue:
Unfortunately, wild animals don’t generally sit still and pose for the camera! Do a little research before your trip and decide which animals you’d most like to capture on film. Learn a little about the habits and behaviour of your subject; many animals are most active at dawn and dusk, some are nocturnal and many species of deer are so engrossed in the mating game during the autumn months that they are less likely to be bothered by a discreet spectator with a camera.
The real ‘golden hour’ is dawn and dusk. Many animals come out to feed at this time and nocturnal creatures will be emerging at dusk too when the light is particularly beautiful and atmospheric.
Practice Makes Perfect:
Great photos require good framing and composition techniques and you will only gain these through practice. So, before you embark on your wildlife photography safari in Northeast Iowa, choose some subjects closer to home to practice on. If you have a garden, there are bound to be birds or animals which appear regularly and the local park is a good place to photograph squirrels, pigeons and the like for practice.
Up Close and Personal:
Wild animals are exactly that; wild. A really good investment is a decent quality telephoto lens. This piece of kit will allow you to zoom in on the action without trying to get too close and disturbing them. You may also have to crawl about amid the undergrowth too so that you remain unobtrusive. It’s also easier to handle a long telephoto lens if you lie prone although most come with a tripod screw attachment to aid stability.
If you are lucky enough to safely get really close to your subject, the eyes should be your focus point. Manual adjustment of your AF points may be necessary to achieve super-sharp definition of the eyes in the photograph. This technique adds a really professional touch to what will otherwise just be an average snapshot.
Wild creatures generally move at speed and a fast shutter speed will best capture movement without blurring and should also help to prevent camera-shake. A rule of thumb is to use a shutter speed which is the same or higher than your focal length, certainly when using a telephoto lens. You may need an even faster shutter speed for photographing birds or fleeing deer.
Autumn colours make a gorgeous backdrop for your photographs but do be sure to find out when and where hunters are about if you’re planning on looking for subjects in wooded areas. You must also respect the animals you are photographing. Many can become aggressive if you come too close, particularly if they have youngsters with them and feel threatened. For example, elk stags can be extremely confrontational and dangerous during the seasonal rut if you get too close and this is another very good reason for using a telephoto lens.
Be prepared to experiment with aperture. You will need to use a small depth of field when zooming in for a close-up or to make an individual more clearly defined. Conversely, a large depth of field works best if you want to capture the landscape as well as the animals.