Wildlife Photography

Is HARD! Ever since I got a camera I have imagined taking pictures of giraffes or lions in Africa, or polar bears in Alaska, or bull moose in Yellowstone. Imagine my surprise when it took almost two years to capture a great blue heron in a picture I felt was of good quality. I figured practicing on local wildlife was the place to start, and living in Pennsylvania we have plenty of (non lethal) animals to photograph.

After many pictures that were too dark, out of focus, blurry, noisy or just plain missed opportunities, I have come to have great respect for wildlife photographers. Moose Peterson's years of experience were very helpful in my education. I’ve watched hours of training videos and tutorials on technique and advice over the past year. Some photographers are lucky; Moose relies on skill, experience, practice and persistence. So I thought I would learn from one of the best.

The problems are these: 1.) Most animals / birds are quite shy, and flee when people come near, so using a long (telephoto or super telephoto) lens is almost a necessity.
2.) Size of the subject. If you’re photographing a full sized deer, or a moose, that’s one thing. Trying to fill the camera frame with a six inch bird, you need to be really close, or again, have a big, big lens. 3.) Wildlife shows up when it’s convenient for them, often times around dusk when the lighting is less than ideal. 4.) Animals and birds can move fast, and rarely stick around posing for pictures.

All this equates to using a fast camera that can take high quality pictures in low light, with a fast lens that has great magnification, and holding it incredibly still. It’s harder than it sounds, and takes practice. The pictures below were all taken with my Nikon D800 and my Sigma 300mm f/2.8 lens. It’s a heavy package. I used the DX crop mode in the D800 so it’s the same magnification as using a 450mm. Using a shutter speed of only 1/500 of a second was risky, but the light was fading fast. I did my best, and I’ll keep working to improve.

Have a great weekend!

Nikon D800 Sigma 300mm f/2.8 @ 300mm (x1.5 DX crop mode) ISO 800 1/500sec