You are a big part of your own photography.
Sure, it might sound quite obvious but all too often wildlife photographers tend to focus on their gear, the subject, the people around them – all important in there own right but not the most important part of the craft.
You are the most important part of the photographic process and if you are anything like me you do a lot of self talk in your mind while photographing wildlife.
For me it happens all the time. Literally! As I look through the viewfinder I forget about everything else and that little photographic voice in my head kicks into overdrive.
Take this image for example.
I shot this last weekend in the Madikwe Game Reserve. This is one of the middle images of a fantastic sequence of images which shows the two lions walking towards, and ultimately past us, one by one.
As I was shooting these images my little photographic voice must have sounded something like this.
i am on av mode right? now i need to try and blur the back lion without making him too out of focus so you can’t see what it it. i wonder if the sky will burn out. hey, what is my iso? perhaps i should rather shoot this on the d3s. nah, the d7000 will do. should i be underexposing slightly? damn, if that back lion doesn’t move i might cut him out the frame. should i have him in? yeah, i reckon it’ll make a better story. man i love this 200-400mm lens but if these cats keep coming closer i am going to have have to grab the 70-200mm very quickly. wonder if my other camera is set up correctly? loving this nice low angle. glad there is now one else around. zoom out a bit. come one, give me some eye contact. yes, there it is. but now the two of you are in a line. i would really like some space between the two of you slightly apart so you don’t merge in the frame. did i check my shutter speed? yeah, sure it’s ok. i definitely think this works best as a portrait shot but shouldn’t i try a landscape orientation as well? nah, not yet. damn that sky in the corner looks bright. perhaps too bright. eish, if this all happened 5 minutes later the sun would be breaking over the horizon and casting some amazing light from the right. yeah, gonna miss that. ah here he comes again. zoom out a bit. nice eye contact by would be pretty cool if the front cat could lift his leg to walk closer. will add nice feeling of movement to the image. will also get him away from the cat in the back and split them in the frame. wonder if my depth of field is too shallow? shouldn’t i increase it a bit to get just a bit more detail to the lion in the back? rule of thirds – check. hey, just remember that you are looking through a zoom lens and this large cat is coming closer all the time. need to remember that i have a very nice, low angle but that i might need to, umm, move when he comes closer. here he comes again. should i change my aperture now? keep it the same? still wondering about that bright light in the corner. hey, i wonder if i could get both cats sharp and in focus. yeah, my horizon is straight. nah, won’t work as that’ll loose the effect i am getting here. if this cat keeps coming closer i can zoom in again and get some kick-ass close ups. then again, that’s been done too often. you know what will be even better – a wide angle with the lion walking right next to me. yeah, that would be cool but not from where i currently find myself. zoom out. man i love this angle…
And it goes on and on.
And on and on.
There are no breaks, no pattern, but everything this little voice says revolves around the scene and subject in the viewfinder. That little voices focuses completely on the moment and that is the important thing.
You need to learn to trust that little photographic voice in your head. You need to listen to it and allow it to guide you. Sure, it might seem like it’s jumping all over the place but regardless of this, your photogrpahic voice will focus on the moment and you need to learn to trust yourself. The more you trust that little voice – which gets better with time – the better your images will become. The more YOU your images will become.
By shooting more, looking at other people’s work, doing course, workshops, sharing, talking and shooting with other people your voice will, well, find it’s voice. And when this happens you can allow that voice to start guiding you towards better wildlife images.
There is nothing better in this world to get lost in the moment when you pick up a camera when you are out in the field so let your photographic voice guide you.
So, what does YOUR photographic voice tell you?
Until next time.
Gerry van der Walt