Gerry van der Walt - Rhino - Wildlife Photography

What Can We Learn From This Image?

Gerry van der Walt All Authors, Gerry 8 Comments

On Saturday I presented a workshop at Nikon South Africa in which we discussed technically creative wildlife photography.  Towards the end of the day I used a specific rhino image as an example and then, when I got home, I processed the image and subsequently posted it to my Instagram and Facebook pages.

The image was very well received but got me thinking about all the different things we spoke about on the workshop and what lessons we can take from this image.

This is the original straight out of camera RAW file.

Gerry van der Walt - Rhino - Wildlife Photography

I made this image well after sunset during a recent photography workshop when we were playing with very low light shooting.  My settings were:

  • Nikon D7200
  • 320mm on a 80-400mm lens
  • 1/125
  • f/5.6
  • ISO 5000

You can see that I had my aperture as wide open as the lens allowed, my shutter speed was well under the recommended 1/focal length and I went hard on the ISO.   Without even looking at the image anyone would be able to guess that the image was going to be soft and grainy.  I also know that many people would have checked the images on their camera out in the field and more than likely deleted it right there.

With that said, here are a few things I think we all need to be reminded of:

  • Never delete images in the field.  Ever.
  • Don’t be scared to push up the ISO.
  • Stop worrying about creating images that has a little bit of noise.
  • Don’t stop photographing when you think the light is gone.
  • Shooting what you see is great but also try and shoot what you feel.

As a part of the workshop I showed how you can get details back in the dark areas in Lightroom, a pretty easy thing, and this is what made me process the image when I got home.  My goal is always to create natural looking wildlife images but I do believe that there is also a time when you should not only shoot what you feel but also process that feeling in order to share the emotional impact of the scene with the readers of your image.

After a few adjustments in Lightroom and Nik filters I ended up with this image.

Gerry van der Walt - Rhino - Wildlife Photography

This is what the scene felt like to me and that’s what I was going for during my post processing.  It’s not perfectly sharp, it’s pretty noisy and there are distractions from a composition point of view but to me it works.

I added the following text to the image:

Sometimes it’s not about how sharp an image is.  Sometimes it’s not about the amount of digital noise.  Sometimes it’s not about distractions or image quality.  Sometimes it’s just about capturing the moment.

That last sentence is important as too many photographers get so caught up in chasing technically correct images that in the process they loose the essence of the moment.

Yes, the technical side of photography is very important and forms the base we need from which we can get creative but if you allow it to be the only focus of your photography you’re gonna end up with very sharp but boring images.

The world doesn’t need sharper images.  There are enough of those.

The world needs better images.

Images that makes the viewer feel something.  That’s important.

Until next time,


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About the Author

Gerry van der Walt

I am a private and specialist photographic safari guide, public speaker, co founder of Wild Eye and wildlife photographer. Visit my website at or follow my journey on Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram and Twitter a look forward to changing the way you see the world.  I also host a Wildlife Photography Podcast and I Vlog!

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  1. Carol Bell

    Gerry once again a super article which I can learn from. I do love the photo…… and have been playing with sightings in Kruger myself…. with the same type of settings but to date have not got it right. Once thing I will remember is it does not matter if my lions are not “sharp” ….. and I will carry on trying till I get something I really am proud of.

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