Lower Angles for Better Wildlife Images

Gerry van der Walt All Authors Leave a Comment

It is amazing what a difference the angle can make when photographing wildlife.

Photographing an animal while looking down at it leaves the viewer, even if only subconsciously, feeling that they are above the subject. Disconnected from it.

Wildlife Photography - Andrew Beck

By changing the angle and getting closer to eye level you will immediately change the connection with the subject and create a better wildlife image.

There are many ways in which you can create a better angle and by doing that better images.

1. Back up and use a telephoto lens

Wildlife Photography - Gerry van der Walt

Instead of parking on top of the subject, which too many people still, back up.

By leaving a bit of distance between you and your subject and using a telephoto lens you will be able to minimize the angle effect.  More than this, your subject will be more relaxed and you will have the opportunity to photograph wildlife the way it should be photographed – naturally!

The above image would not have worked if we tried to move closer to the pride of lions.  Even if the female allowed us to come much closer – which judging by the look she gave us at about 40 meters – the same scene with the lions all looking up at me just wouldn’t make for as good an image.

2. Watch the road

Wildlife Photography - Gerry van der Walt

In many game reserves the roads are scraped on a regular basis.

Apart from creating a much more pleasant driving experience these sunken roads gives you the perfect opportunity to get as low as, if not lower than, your subject.

The above image was taken in the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park in one of the sunken road areas close to the Twee Rivieren Camp.  The road at this particular spot is about 1/2 meter lower than the ground the animals find themselves on making for great angles.

Again, this shot would not have been as striking if I was higher as I would not have been able to get the Sprinbuck behind the grass.

3. Animals on mounds

Wildlife Photography - Gerry van der Walt

Whether they are looking our for predators or busy hunting, most animals will, at some point, look for a higher vantage point.

By being patient and knowing animal behavior you will be able to anticipate these moments.  Leopards climbing a tree, a topi standing on top of a termite hill or, in this case, a Wild Dog on a slight rise in an open grassy area.

The moment your subjects gets higher you’re in the game.

This Wild Dog was leading the pack as they woke up from their afternoon nap and set out on the hunt.  We followed them for quite a while when we saw the little rise in the direction where they were heading.

We left them and moved ahead to position ourselves for the shot.  It worked our perfectly as the alpha male ran straight towards the elevated area, stopped to look around and then looked straight at us before carrying on.

Patience, planing and an understanding of your subject can never be discounted in wildlife photography.

When you’re next out int he field look for ways in which you can safely get a better angle for your images.  I guarantee you will see a difference!

Until next time.

Gerry van der Walt

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