One Subject, Eight Perspectives

Morkel Erasmus All Authors, Morkel 3 Comments

We’ve often made mention of seeing the bigger picture here on the Wild Eye blog – of including the environment to tell the story of the wildlife you are photographing. Yet, that doesn’t mean we don’t all take nice close-up portraits when the opportunity arises.

In this short post, I will show you 8 very different kinds of photos of Zebras. This should give you plenty of food for thought (and hopefully some inspiration) for your next trip to the wilderness – I would say it’s probably a good idea to try and “bank” as many different photos of your subject as long as it’s cooperative, and these should give you a good idea of the purpose of each of these photos in my own shooting style.

1. Pretty Portraits

Despite the fact that most wildlife photographers have similar shots, I do enjoy being able to get a decent close-up portrait of my subjects. Stock-standard and pretty-pleasing if you will.

I use these to capture the detail and nuances of my subject’s facial features and possible expressions (with cognisance that some animals are more “expressive” than others).

Here’s a portrait of a Cape Mountain Zebra.

closeup1

 2. Claustrophobic Close-ups

Abstracts if you will – if I am able to get really close (whether through good field-craft or driving or lens selection or a combination of both), I like to look for something different in the body parts or skin patterns of the subject.

In the case of Zebras, though, a photo like this is pretty common nowadays…still it’s nice to bag your own version of it.

With these photos you get a real feel for the subject’s skin/fur texture and other intricate details.

zebra pattern

 3. The Bodyshot

Just what it says it is…a full body shot with no legs or tails or ears clipped off, but also with little else in the frame.

Fill the frame with your subject.

This is also a Cape Mountain Zebra.

bodyshot

 4. Striking Silhouettes

If the light is good, use it to your advantage.

Don’t always just photograph with the light falling on your subject…

silhouette1

5. Reap the Repetition

I’ve posted in more detail about this before – but if there are other animals in the immediate vicinity (particularly if they are the same species as your main subject), use them to your advantage.

zebra_herd_1_Rietvlei_2011

6. Engage the Environment

Like I said upfront – we often harp about this on the blog but it’s something we’re all quite passionate about. Use the environment, the prevailing atmospheric conditions and the lay of the land to your advantage to tell a story and give your viewers context about where and when the photo was captured.

scape1

 7. Quirky Behaviour

Be alert and on the lookout for something interesting – it may happen at any time.

This photo shows a Plains Zebra mare eating a termite mound, a phenomenon called “geophagia” which occurs when animals seek to supplement their mineral intake by chewing dirt.

geophagia1

8. Awesome Action

These are the photos on top of most wildlife photographers’ bucket lists – photos that show blistering action and capture a fleeting second in a burst of energy.

Knowledge of your subject and a keen awareness of what’s going on in front of you will aid you in nailing these shots.

Besides obvious action (fighting, hunting, mating), this could include slow-motion panning/blur photos, which are quite tricky to get right.

action1

Obviously it would be unrealistic to expect to obtain all these various perspectives at every sighting you have, but I believe that working the scene with all the focal lengths you have at your disposal, being aware and preemptive for something to happen and being familiar with your subject and your gear will help you in building a much broader photographic portfolio when working with a specific subject.

Until next time!

Morkel Erasmus

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