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Thread: Composition for wildlife shots

  1. #1
    terrib's Avatar
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    Composition for wildlife shots

    On wildlife shots, I usually don't have a lot of time to frame the shot for interesting foreground and background. Add to that the fact that I am so enamored by the subject that I tend to crop in really close, if not at the time, then in post processing.

    I usually try to place the eyes at one of the points using the rule of thirds and I also try to leave space wherever they are looking. I'm posting these shots to get a little feedback on how you might have shot or cropped these differently.

    Original
    Composition for wildlife shots

    Cropped version
    Composition for wildlife shots

    Original
    Composition for wildlife shots

    Cropped version
    Composition for wildlife shots

    Original
    Composition for wildlife shots

    Cropped version
    Composition for wildlife shots

    Thanks so much for you time and assistance!

  2. #2
    Trina's Avatar
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    Re: Composition for wildlife shots

    Hi Terri, I pretty much do it the way you do...get the shot and then crop to make it look right:> I really like the way you cropped the first two pictures.... I think on the third one I would have like it more if there was more room on his right side.... also would have liked to see all of him:> the last photo is such a wonderful shot of his head, maybe even make it more of a head shot and lose the legs altogether... Beautiful photo's... nicely captured:>

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    Re: Composition for wildlife shots

    Hi Terri, although I'm no expert in wildlife photography I can pass on what I do. Your theory of placing the rule of thirds on the eye and allowing space for the animal to move into is fine and I do it. I was also in the habit of zooming in to fill the frame with the subject, now I zoom in and then pull back a bit, which allows for more space in PP and shows a bit of the environment, to a viewer a close cropped Leopard in a zoo can look just the same as a close cropped Leopard in Africa. Some wildlife pictures are taken quickly as an animal appears and we are taken by suprise in this instance get the shot and hope for the best. What I tend to do now is find a place eg a waterhole and wait for the animals to come to me, it gives a lot more time for composition and preparation.
    The cropped squirrel is OK as in the original my eye is distracted by the light, foreground and log, but to me he still appears a bit lost in the overall image. I like the cropped foxes and the last one has a great expression and a good catch light in the eye. Although I do find the background a bit distracting, but that is where the animal was.

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    Re: Composition for wildlife shots

    I am right there with Clive, Terri. I agree with his points and see things much the same way. Wildlife can be tough and many times we are limited to what opportunity we are presented. I shoot with what is consdered a short lens for wildlife. 400mm....so cropping in many situations is a fact of life. I do try and compose my shot in the best possible way before pulling the trigger, this gives me the most lattitude when finishing it off in PP. As Clive said, I too have some of my best results when I can lay and wait for them. I have also worked dilegently on my stalking techniques which can come in very useful.
    Keep doing what you are, looks good to me.

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    Re: Composition for wildlife shots

    Terri,

    I rarely shoot wildlife and don't have the long glass needed to achieve maximum results. However, the few times that I am in a situation to do it, my natural tendency is to close in too much and lose the environment. So, on the one hand, I echo the suggestions that others have made. On the other hand, the environment of these particular images is not all that interesting, which for me is a great argument to crop closely as you have done.

    In the first image, consider toning down the brightly lit grass in the bottom left area, as it detracts from the subject, which negatively impacts the nice composition that you have selected. Similarly, in the last one, you could desaturate the red background and tone down the bright rocks.
    Last edited by Mike Buckley; 13th July 2012 at 12:59 AM.

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    Re: Composition for wildlife shots

    Again, I'm not an expert but I've done a lot of wildlife photography, mostly in Africa. I would just like to add that, for me, it also depends on whether the subject is (reliably!) stationary (e.g. at times, an elephant) or on the move. If stationary, then I try to get the composition right in camera. That way I can look carefully at every corner of the image, and get the best idea I can of how it will eventually look: no odd bits of vegetation in the wrong place, for example. (It's also more satisfying!) With movement, or with a group or herd, then it makes more sense to pull back and get the composition that I want post-processing. I also know my photography took a backward step when I go my first zoom lens (shows my age) because I got idle - I hope I've recovered from that now!

  7. #7
    terrib's Avatar
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    Re: Composition for wildlife shots

    Thanks, Trina for you comments. I'll give your suggestions on the last one a try.

  8. #8
    terrib's Avatar
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    Re: Composition for wildlife shots

    Clive, thank you for your comments. That's a good thought to zoom and then pull back. That would always give the opportunity to crop again if necessary and still have a good size image but have the option of including background. What I really need is practice, practice, practice so that the mechanics of the camera are more second nature and I can think more about composition at the time!

  9. #9
    terrib's Avatar
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    Re: Composition for wildlife shots

    Thank you, Paul, Mike and Dave for your comments too. All of this is helpful. I shot the fox with a 100-400mm lens and I agree that the background is not very interesting. With wildlife that comes into the yard, I try to catch them with a natural background but this is actually the first time I've had the opportunity to capture a fox this young so I wasn't too picky with where he was. I also need to learn to use Photoshop Elements or at least the brushes capability of Aperture so that I can better manage the light issues with the ground squirrel.

    Mostly with wildlife, I need to get some detachment from the excitement of seeing the animal so that I can concentrate on all the photography techniques. I'm like a kid, too giddy for concentration. But I am enjoying life!

  10. #10

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    Re: Composition for wildlife shots

    Quote Originally Posted by terrib View Post
    Mostly with wildlife, I need to get some detachment from the excitement of seeing the animal so that I can concentrate on all the photography techniques.
    When I was in my film-shooting days, two young moose conveniently appeared beside the road in gorgeous, early-morning sunlight. They were so close that I had to make sure my lens was short enough. Just as I composed my shot, the two moose turned their heads toward me as if they were posing to ensure the fabulous catchlight in their eyes. I pressed the shutter release...and immediately realized that I had no film in the camera.
    Last edited by Mike Buckley; 13th July 2012 at 12:50 PM.

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    Re: Composition for wildlife shots

    Great photos, especially the last one of the fox. When I lived in Vermont there was a fox who used to sit outside my bedroom window at night and bark, waking me right up; the first time it happened I fell out of bed, having no idea what it was. Such a strange sound.

    I agree with the comments about trying to capture more of the environment, although as has been pointed out that really depends on the situation and whether the surrounding environment is interesting enough visually to include in the picture. I actually think it's worth studying some of the great wildlife painters to get a sense for how they approached composition with wildlife. On the one hand you have someone like Audubon who painted from birds he had shot and his paintings were essentially portraits, and on the other you have Bruno Liljefors, the brilliant Swedish painter, who captured animals in their natural environment and captured their natural behavior. Probably my favourite Liljefors painting of all time is this one, also of a fox: the texture of the grass and the texture of the fox's fur echo each other and the environment plays as important a role in this painting as the fox does.

    Composition for wildlife shots

  12. #12
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    Re: Composition for wildlife shots

    Quote Originally Posted by terrib View Post

    Mostly with wildlife, I need to get some detachment from the excitement of seeing the animal so that I can concentrate on all the photography techniques. I'm like a kid, too giddy for concentration. But I am enjoying life!
    Terri, When you get this figured out please share, because for the life of me I have not been able to figure this same problem out... And I am even more giddy when I get a good shot, hubby just laughs at me It sure feels good to get those shots though!

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