That ONE blade of grass

Johan van Zyl All Authors, Johan Leave a Comment

If you have been on a few Photo safaris, then I am sure you are very familiar with that ONE blade of grass.  The ONE that will make you pull out your hair and bite your bottom lip out of frustration.  No matter where you go, even if you are in the middle of the desert in Namibia, you will find that ONE blade of grass.

Why is it that we are so obsessed with clean images?  Why must it be perfect when photographing wildlife?

We all go through a stage where you evolve as a photographer and as much as that ONE blade irritated the living daylights out of me, more often than not it is now what I am looking for depending on the subject that I am photographing.

Think about it, what is your main goal when Photographing Wildlife?

I hope most, not actually ALL of you are saying to photograph an animal in it’s natural surroundings, doing what it naturally does.

So think of your subjects, say a Black Rhino for example.  What habitat does a Black Rhino normally live in?  Does it pose out in the open, relaxed, going about his business?  Not very often, so why portray it as that?

1/500 F2.8 ISO 1600

A Leopard, known to be one of the most secretive big cats around right?  So why are we obsessed about having them pose in the open?  Is this reflecting who they truly are?

½000 F2.8 ISO 500

½500 F2.8 ISO 4000

On a lot of Safaris Iv’e seen people delete and even put their camera’s down, refusing to photograph an animal because of branches or grass obscuring their way.  It goes without saying that repositioning the vehicle if possible would be the first option, but if nothing can be done to get a clear image, why not try and create something different.

How do I go about Photographing wildlife through branches?

  • Select a shallow depth of field, F4, F2.8 etc.  This will blur the branches in the fore and background.
  • Keep your focal point as close to the subject’s eyes as possible. Because of the shallow depth of field there is not much room for error.  If your focal point is not spot on, your subject’s face will be out of focus.
  • Manual Focus if necessary.
  • Using back button focus, put your focal point on your subjects face, press the AF button once to achieve focus and then release, and manually focus with your lens until your subject is sharp and in focus.

So next time when you are faced with your subject in the thickets, don’t put your camera down, rather challenge yourself to try and create something unique, I guarantee you, the rewards are worth it.


About the Author

Johan van Zyl


The opportunity of visiting some of the wildest, undisturbed areas and sharing my passion for wildlife, conservation and photography with like minded people is a privilege that I am forever grateful.

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