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Beginner tips for the aspiring wildlife photographer

  • May 6, 2015

Photography is an art that takes years of practice and careful studying to master. For most photographers, the subjects are stationary models, objects, or even scenery and sets they've designed themselves.

For the wildlife photographer, the subjects aren't as accommodating. An amateur photographer may camp out in a scouted location for hours on end trying to capture the perfect shot. When it comes to snapping that photo, every second could make a world of difference. When that second comes, you want to be prepared, so make sure you have a handle on the basics.

1. Know your gear
Whether you're using your smartphone or a high-end digital single-lens reflex camera, the key is knowing what you're working with. Before getting on the trail, make sure you know what every button does and what function is best for each scenario. When the situation arises, you'll want to adjust these tools very quickly.

For a photographer looking to get serious, National Geographic photographers Cary Wolinsky and Bob Caputo called a telephoto lens a must, as animals will rarely let you waltz right over for a close-up.

2. Study the environment
Where would a bird watcher be if they didn't know what species of fowl to search for? Even if photographing birds isn't your goal, you need to find out what you do want to snap some shots of and plan how to get those opportunities. That means doing some research about what animals could be in the area and what their habits are as well as analyzing what surroundings could make prime scenes. Pull out a map, consult a local wildlife resource and start strategizing.

Environment is more than the terrain and the animals, though. Lighting changes drastically over the period of the day, and you'll want pay close attention to the time and how it could affect your shots. Grab a watch compass so you can plan for those changes ahead of time and navigate to those prime photo spots when you need.

3. Research the rules of photography
Just like writing, sculpting and painting, photography has a long history filled with rules and tips for shooting the best photos. You don't need to follow all those guidelines, but it helps to know what they are. The rule of thirds, balance, leading lines, depth - learn what they're all about so you can use them to your advantage or scrap them when the situation calls for it.

4. Safety first, photography second
There are one too many stories of amateur wildlife photographers taking photos of bears just before a grizzly demise. As with everything else during your hike, your safety should always come first. If a situation seems too dangerous, avoid it. If you're not sure if it's dangerous or not, avoid it. No matter how tantalizing the photo opportunity is, it isn't worth risking an injury in the middle of the woods. 

With Protrek's PRW6000Y-1A watch, you'll be able to capture all the beauty the earth's wildlife has to offer. It comes complete with a watch compass, along with barometer and altimeter so you'll be able to catch those perfect shots at the right location, time and angle. Not to mention, it's colors are easy to blend in to your surroundings so you won't scare the animals away!

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