You know those slick new khaki shorts and ranger-like shirt you just bought from Old Khaki or Cape Union Mart? Well it’s time to get them a little dirty, give them a little character. Before I get to the fun part of what I want to convey to you, there are a few easier, probably safer ways of getting eye-level images of animals that would potentially want to have you as their early morning protein snack.
Firstly, why go through all of the effort you may ask?
Because the result are totally awesome!!
Being low down when you photograph animals creates an amazing effect. You give the viewer a sense of the animal’s size and you also avoid shooting straight into the ground behind it.
When you are sitting high up, getting a “short” distance between your subject and the next obstacle behind it is unavoidable. Why do you want distance? The greater the distance between your subject and the next object like grasses or rocks, the more the background “clutter” will be blurred out and your subject will explode from the frame. It will be bold and you will be on eye level and will capture your audience far more effectively.
Now lets look at some ways to getting these images out in the field.
Vehicle positioning is crucial when you photograph wildlife. If you find yourself approaching a potential sighting in a national park, assess the situation as much as possible before blundering in there and switching the car off, only to find yourself not only caught in a traffic-jam reminiscent of the Malibongwe Drive on a Monday afternoon, but also yelling at your wife for being in the way and cussing at the damn driver who blocked your view.
Yes I know, we have all been there.
All this could be avoided with a little forward thinking, especially if you arrive early at a sighting. Positioning yourself close to or even lower than eye-level will bring real life to your subject, and convey size and a different perception to the viewer. Don’t be afraid of being a little further away, it may add to your shot (check out my previous blog entry on space in your images).
For those who shoot with telephoto prime lenses such as 300mm or larger, that “out-of-focus” effect will almost automatically be achieved. Shooting at apertures such as f4 or f5 creates a lovely background-blur, enough so to put great emphasis on your subject and giving the impression you were lower than what you actually were.
Now for my favorite part.
Get down on the ground and get down low and dirty.
It is not always comfortable and those little pebbles under your elbows will be uncomfortable at first, and they will also get much worse at a later stage. I can’t stress enough how careful you should be when attempting this. Many of you won’t be able to leave your vehicles in the national parks, and for guides and people who have access to private game reserves remember many of these animals won’t mind giving you a proper scare or even worse. Safety first folks. The effects of lying down next to the ground will give new meaning to photographing even the humble impala.
It will add a new dimension to your photography and boost your enthusiasm to higher levels. If you are visiting a private reserve perhaps ask your guide if at his discretion he could accompany you to snap a few shots from the side of the car. The resulting images are always better than shooting from higher up.
Cool, so now you have a total of three new ways to photograph wildlife. Remember not to become an article in tomorrow’s news report and enjoy being out there to the fullest.