I photographed this decent bull in the last week of September on our Pennsylvania Elk Photography Experience. He is a decent bull, about average for the current elk herd in Pennsylvania. There is a lot of talk in the area that we just don’t see the bigger bulls like we used to see. I tend to agree with this sentiment, but now that we have a hunting season for the elk this makes perfect sense. Both hunters and photographers like to target the bigger bulls!
On this particular evening the sky was dropping down some precipitation, which was the norm for the last week of September this year. The produced the grey sky. I typically like these sky shots, with the bull on the horizon in front of the big sky. A nice blue sky or even an orange setting sun sky is preferred, but you can see how this shot separates the bull from the background and really helps to emphasize the detail of his rack.
The goal of separating an animal from its native background is always the goal of the wildlife photographer. Animals often blend into their backgrounds, which is part of what keeps them safe from predators. Large apertures are helpful in creating a shallow depth of field for the photographer, but there is nothing quite as effective as an animal placed right on the horizon to separate it from its environment. The next time you are out in the wild, try to position yourself below the subject and aim for the sky in the background. I think it works well and makes for some stunning wildlife photographs! What do you think?
Yesterday I shared the story of how my son, James, and I encounter a cow elk and were able to photograph it close up.
Today I am posting three more photos of this cow. Yesterday’s photos included much of the vegetation that the cow was actually eating. These photos today try to focus on the cow and highlight her without much distraction. Wildlife photography is difficult for many reasons: long, fast glass is needed and it’s expensive, animals are difficult to find and often don’t stay still very long, the best times for wildlife photography is at sunrise and sunset when light is low, and it is often hard to separate the subject from its camouflaged background. This last difficulty is my subject today.
How does the wildlife photographer separate the wild subject from its background? What tools in our camera can we use to assist in this endeavor?
Wide open f-stops are probably one of my most favorite tools to help accomplish this goal. Shooting wide open blurs the background and allows the viewer’s eye to focus completely on the subject. Large f-stops like f/2.8 are extremely helpful. Yes, they are expensive, but I find them irreplaceable in my wildlife photography. Another tool is the placement of the subject. We all know that backgrounds can literally ruin a photograph. So working with a clean background is very helpful. Setting the subject against a clear blue sky is golden! Or how about using the contrast of goldenrod or queen anne’s lace in a field to place your subject? Of course we do not literally place our subjects, but paying attention to the background can make a subject stand out loud and proud!
What tools do you use to separate your wildlife subjects from their habitat?
Our daughter, Lydia, went for a walk late this afternoon. On her way out and then back again she was surprised to see a baby fawn lying right next to the front porch of house!
Motivated by her sighting, I grabbed my camera, put the 70-200mm lens on, and went out the door. It was just starting to rain and the cloud cover was blocking some of the light. Before I even took ten steps out our back door, I spotted a rabbit. It was a young one and appeared out of nowhere! I causally moved about as if just wandering around and was able to get closer. The light was too dim for a 200 ISO setting, so I bumped it up to 400. At an aperture of f/2.8 I was getting anywhere from 1/250 – 1/325 shutter speed. This was just enough to allow me to shoot handheld and get a few nice shots.
Before long, this little bunny moved into the brush, apparently having enough of my presence. So I moved on to another rabbit sitting just beyond our driveway. This was an adult rabbit. I observed and clicked the shutter release and then watched in amazement as he stretched out his neck to get some grass to eat. This was repeated several times as the continuous frames were blasting away from my end. Then, almost as if on cue, this rabbit started cleaning his back foot!
Wildlife is incredible and completely amazing to me. I am known to say, “There’s no place like the mountains.” I believe this deep down in my soul for a number of reasons, not the least of which is the wonderful wildlife I get to see and photograph!
Today I was hoping to photograph a fawn but ended up photographing two rabbits who seemed to emerge out of nowhere. I just happened upon them and I’m so glad I did!
What do you think of these rabbit photos?
When you are on an important photo shoot getting the shot is important. There is little room for mistakes, which is why shooting in RAW is so helpful. We all know that. But there is nothing better than getting the shot from the camera to begin with.
That’s why a mental checklist can help us capture the shot we are after. Your mental checklist might include things like White Balance, ISO setting, Aperture, and Shutter Speed. This morning I was shooting in very difficult stage lighting. I couldn’t figure out at first why I kept getting blurry shots. Then I realized that I had not set my aperture properly. Obviously, I did not cover my mental checklist.
What is on your mental checklist? Do you have a standard operating procedure to use this checklist? Plan ahead, create a mental checklist and use it!