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Thread: Wildlife photography dilemma - any views?

  1. #1
    davidedric's Avatar
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    Wildlife photography dilemma - any views?

    Hello,

    Since I joined CiC I've been struck that there are two different ways to approach wildlife photography.

    The first is to show the creature in its environment, so that you get some understanding of what it is doing there and why. I am very interested in wildlife, and I do like this approach (it still has to be a good image, of course). For that reason, I'm not over-fond of "bird on a twig" photographs. I recognise the technical skill that is needed, and can admire the exquisite feather detail, but I still want to ask where the bird is, and what it's doing there.

    The second, of course, is to isolate the creature as much as possible from its background, and to produce more of a portrait shot. This seems to be "purer" photography, and a lot of work can go into to PP to create some visually stunning images.

    I take both kind of pictures, and I am sure that there is room for both, but I wonder what others think?

    Dave

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    jprzybyla's Avatar
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    Re: Wildlife photography dilemma - any views?

    Hello David, for me there are three kinds of wildlife images. First would be what I think of as a species shot, the kind you see in the bird identification books... a close crop showing feaher detail and colors accurately. Second would be an environment shot showing the bird in the habitat that it lives in. Third would be an image of the bird as fine art, more suitable for printing to hang on a wall or gallery. Below I have posted images to show what I commented on. I think the dilemma is to decide which category an image can be developed for.

    Species/bird book

    Wildlife photography dilemma - any views?

    Environmemt

    Wildlife photography dilemma - any views?

    Fine Art

    Wildlife photography dilemma - any views?
    Last edited by jprzybyla; 27th February 2013 at 05:44 PM.

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    Re: Wildlife photography dilemma - any views?

    I would add one more category to Joe's comments. Or #1A if you like.

    With some species, you need very precise photographs to enable identification.

    So as well as the 'photo in a book' category you may need to be able to count a beetle's toes, etc, for accurate identification to be made. So the whole creature isn't visible.

    Usually a little easier with birds than insects, although getting close enough can require good fieldcraft.

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    Shadowman's Avatar
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    Re: Wildlife photography dilemma - any views?

    Add a fourth, and I am not advocating this method, but I read where some photographers will partially freeze an insect for macro photography.

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    Re: Wildlife photography dilemma - any views?

    I would categorize as:
    1. Bird on a twig shot: for small birds like sunbirds/bee-eaters. With my 70-300 mm tele, it is very difficult to get a full frame portrait shot of these birds. Still, my first attempt has always been to get as close as possible to take a decent shot before it flies away. They are so small that they get lost in a habitat shot.
    2. Habitat shot: for large water / shore / wading birds (pelicans/storks/cranes/egrets): I like to include the environment, they are large enough for a habitat shot with some nice backgrounds or showing their nests, etc.
    3. BIF or Action shot: for a pelican taking off or a kingfisher diving or a raptor killing/eating a prey: Again I would like to get close to the action.
    4. Artistic shot: No rules…………….

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    Re: Wildlife photography dilemma - any views?

    Chilling an insect to slow it down can be effective but you have to work quickly before it warms up. Store it in a standard collection tube.

    A couple of hours in a domestic refrigerator or two minutes max in a freezer. They can be stored overnight etc. I usually place a twist of kitchen paper in the tube.

    Set up your camera exactly correctly, including any studio lights. 'Cool bulbs' work best. Position any background that is required. I find that large leaves turned upside down can make a good background as they have less reflection on the undersides.

    A shallow open top container works well, preferably with translucent sides.

    Tip the subject onto the background and start shooting. With some subjects you will be lucky to get two minutes; and more like a few seconds in many cases.

    Keep a window open to let the model escape after shooting.

    Generally speaking, I find that shooting in the wild saves a lot of bother, but this can be useful where you have to see a particular angle or item such as antennae or legs.

    Actually catching them in the first place, with a net etc can often be more difficult than straight outdoor shots.

    The chilling doesn't cause any harm. It is no different to chilly night time conditions. And better for the insect than the alternative - killing it!

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    kaneohebud's Avatar
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    Re: Wildlife photography dilemma - any views?

    Joe's got it right. Beautiful fine art example, by the way.

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    Shadowman's Avatar
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    Re: Wildlife photography dilemma - any views?

    Quote Originally Posted by Geoff F View Post
    Chilling an insect to slow it down can be effective but you have to work quickly before it warms up. Store it in a standard collection tube.

    A couple of hours in a domestic refrigerator or two minutes max in a freezer. They can be stored overnight etc. I usually place a twist of kitchen paper in the tube.

    Set up your camera exactly correctly, including any studio lights. 'Cool bulbs' work best. Position any background that is required. I find that large leaves turned upside down can make a good background as they have less reflection on the undersides.

    A shallow open top container works well, preferably with translucent sides.

    Tip the subject onto the background and start shooting. With some subjects you will be lucky to get two minutes; and more like a few seconds in many cases.

    Keep a window open to let the model escape after shooting.

    Generally speaking, I find that shooting in the wild saves a lot of bother, but this can be useful where you have to see a particular angle or item such as antennae or legs.

    Actually catching them in the first place, with a net etc can often be more difficult than straight outdoor shots.

    The chilling doesn't cause any harm. It is no different to chilly night time conditions. And better for the insect than the alternative - killing it!
    A lively caterpillar can be quite a chore to photograph as well.

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    Re: Wildlife photography dilemma - any views?

    Quote Originally Posted by jprzybyla View Post
    Hello David, for me there are three kinds of wildlife images. First would be what I think of as a species shot, the kind you see in the bird identification books... a close crop showing feaher detail and colors accurately. Second would be an environment shot showing the bird in the habitat that it lives in. Third would be an image of the bird as fine art, more suitable for printing to hang on a wall or gallery. Below I have posted images to show what I commented on. I think the dilemma is to decide which category an image can be developed for.

    Species/bird book

    Wildlife photography dilemma - any views?

    Environmemt

    Wildlife photography dilemma - any views?

    Fine Art

    Wildlife photography dilemma - any views?
    Huh..........................isn't your last example of an animal in it's natural habitat?



    Unless it's in a cage, the only difference is composition.

  10. #10
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    Re: Wildlife photography dilemma - any views?

    Hi Dave, a very debatable subject and some interesting comments.
    Personally: although I like the portrait picture with a blurred background for its wow effect; however, apart from the excitement the photographer had in capturing the image it could be in a zoo than on the Serengeti Plains! I like the animal to be put in its natural environment and in certain cases (open areas and herds) when time permits I'm starting to shoot with a larger depth of field to get more detail and depth to the image. Shallower depths of field I use for the tangled bush background. But who can cater for the leopard that walks across the road and is gone in two seconds, my default camera settings for driving around are Aperture priority f5.6 and ISO400 that seems to work for me. I have also got into the habit of pulling back on the zoom to allow for more flexible PP and more environment.
    On this forum there has been some very good bird pictures and in this case I find isolating the bird is best because of its size, colour, feather detail and identification. Flocks of birds are different again.

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    Re: Wildlife photography dilemma - any views?

    Quote Originally Posted by Shadowman View Post
    A lively caterpillar can be quite a chore to photograph as well.
    But can be done.

    Wildlife photography dilemma - any views?

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    Re: Wildlife photography dilemma - any views?

    In reality we have no say.

    The target's size, its acceptance of your presence, and the conditions around you determine what is or is not possible.

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    Re: Wildlife photography dilemma - any views?

    Hi Dave,

    Wildlife Photography and any other form of Photography, is a matter of choice of the Photographer. IMHO any image should be whatever the Photographer wishes to depict and what you would like the viewer to see in the image. In making the image acceptable to a wider audience there are guidelines to follow in making an image attract attention.

    There is no rule that states you have to stick to any guideline in capturing your images. Thinking outside the “box” in capturing images would not be a sin. Capturing images of wildlife in your own style might render stunning images. Testing the viewers opinion as to how acceptable those images are, to a wider audience will be the proof of the pudding. That will only apply if you wish to satisfy the appetite of a wider audience. I do believe you wish to make your images as acceptable to as wide an audience as you can possibly get, therefore you ask for an opinion.

    My opinion is that CiC is very much a place where you can test the acceptability of the images you capture. Positive comment is always very pleasing, however it is the negative comment and critique that is sometimes more helpful in developing your skills.
    Whatever style of Wildlife Photography you wish to apply, you should test the acceptability of that particular style with an audience. If the wider audience find your style acceptable you will know you are on the right track to have a wide audience, whom will be interested in your work. However if you wish to develop your own style no matter how acceptable it is to an audience, you need not take note of what others have to say about your work. It is pretty much like a Picasso painting to me, I would not pay a dime for his work whilst others are prepared to spend millions to own a Picasso.

    No matter what style of Wildlife Photography (or any other Photography) you like, as long as you like what you are doing and get images that are technically acceptable you will find an audience that will like your work. If you would like your work to be popular with a wider audience you will have to adapt to a style that renders images that are acceptable to a wider audience.
    You should feel free to post any images in CiC and hope many members will respond to your post. No matter what: accept the comment and critique as positive for developing your style.

    So Dave, I do not think you have a dilemma, it is a matter of what you wish to do and how far you would like to reach with your particular style of Photography, that will determine how you develop you individual style. Just my humble opinion.

  14. #14
    davidedric's Avatar
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    Re: Wildlife photography dilemma - any views?

    Thank you very much for a most interesting set of views. Probably "dilemma" was really the wrong choice of title, but the discussion was what I hoped to see.

    I like Joe's illustrations for starters, though I don't think I've ever shot anything as artistic as his wood storks.

    I also think that adding"action shots" or perhaps "behaviour shots" in as a category is helpful.

    I do sometimes take bird photos for id, but fortunately don't have to count the number of wings, or whatever (those juveniles can be pesky, though )

    AB26 sums it all up very well. I'd been thinking about this for some time, but what actually prompted me to post was the recent discussion around terrib's road-runner, where there was some discussion around how to isolate the bird from the background, followed by a comment that it didn't matter, because the bird was set in its environment.

    I think that my learning from this is:

    - be clear what you (i.e. I) are trying to create
    - make that intention clear when asking for C&C

    Thanks again and regards,

    Dave

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    Re: Wildlife photography dilemma - any views?

    Hi David,

    I struggle with this dilemma all the time. I don't tend toward tight crops or clean backgrounds and it's very common for me to get comments guiding me to clone or crop or about distracting elements. These comments have really helped. Even though there is often not much explanation as to why, the guidance has helped me to further evaluate my photos every time I post. I started a post early in my membership here asking "Are we training ourselves to be distracted" and I think there were some good points made there that relate to your question.

    Now, for some specific examples to your question and I'll try not to go to long! I should say that I'm an infant still in this learning process but here are my ideas.

    First, about the Roadrunner Post that you referred to. I was worried about the background in the photos. I agreed with the comment about not being bothered by the busy background because it was in it's environment but I was trying to process so that the bird didn't blend in quite so much so there were a few suggestions on that. But there were also suggestions on cropping and I followed that advice because I realized that not only did it reduce the amount of busy background for the purpose of further bringing focus to the bird, but there was also no reason to leave it. The extra background wasn't needed to give a sense of the environment - it's the same whether cropped tightly or not - and the tighter crop gave a clearer picture of the bird. So the tight crop was appropriate for this shot.

    Now, here's my rookie thought process on this picture (unprocessed). There was no time to compose on scene.

    Wildlife photography dilemma - any views?

    -My first crop of this picture was very tight because I'm thinking the bird is my subject and I want to show as much detail as possible.
    -My second crop (which I think I actually posted somewhere on the forum) was of the bird and the 2 posts either side of him because I'm thinking I want to show him in his environment.
    -Later, I'm thinking I kinda find interest in that fence (especially the left side) and wanted to include more of it but then I worried I had lost sight of the subject. (Actually typed up but didn't finish a post on the forum about it "When do we lose the subject")
    -Finally, it occurred to me to think about what I wanted to say with this picture. What I wanted was to show the bird in his environment. Why? I want to show the prairie in which he hunts and from where he surveys his hunting ground. The following is what I came up with. The horizon is straightened, the hawk is not centered, he has more room in the direction he is looking, there are an odd number of posts and extra sky and foreground are eliminated.

    Wildlife photography dilemma - any views?


    Now, what would make me a REAL photographer? Now that I've decided what I want to portray, I should go back to that scene and see if I can improve the composition, then go when the light is good (and I believe the hawk would be hunting) and then wait for the hawk to land on the post.

    Bottom line? I totally agree with your conclusions. We really should have intention in our photographs. And to get the best critique I think it helps a lot to state what our intention is. Seems to me, though, that when we've truly "arrived" is when our intention is clear. So as long as we're getting those "crop this", "clone that" comments, we either didn't shoot with intention or we've not achieved what we intended.

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    Re: Wildlife photography dilemma - any views?

    Joe, I like your breakdown of different types of wildlife photography. Each type requires a different set of compositional skills, etc.

    Karm

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