Category - Nature Photography

The Joy of Photographing Butterflies (The Great Spangled Fritillary)

I spotted these two beautiful Great Spangled Fritillary butterflies (Nymphalidae family) in our backyard. Throughout its wide range of flight, the Great Spangled Fritillary is most common in July but can be found flying from early June into September depending on location and weather conditions.

8 Tips for Taking Great Wildlife Images at the Zoo

If you ask photographers, most would say that they’d love to go on safari or take a trip to an exotic land just for the opportunity to create amazing images of fantastic animals. However, it’s not so easy to break away from daily life for a trip to the wilds. Fortunately, you can still create some amazing images while staying much closer to home. Take a trip to your local zoo and use these tips to take breathtaking wildlife photos! 1. Choose the Right Day and Time The biggest mistake that some photographers make is going to the zoo on a weekend, during the middle of the day. If you pick the wrong time to go, you’ll spend an undue amount of time-fighting crowds to take photos of animals that are sleeping in a shady spot. Try to plan your trip for a weekday, and if possible, visit in the early morning or towards evening. You’ll experience fewer crowds, and the animals are likely to be more active, too. Morning and evening sunlight will also help you get that perfect golden lighting, and it helps make the colors pop. Don’t be disappointed if the day is rainy or overcast. These days offer some of the best opportunities as animals play in the rain. You’ll also have fewer harsh shadows, and the even lighting will help you get beautifully saturated colors. 2. Dealing with Glass In many cases, the animals you’re photographing are behind glass, which presents a couple of challenges. For one thing, the glass may be reflective. It may also be covered in fingerprints from other zoo patrons. Take along a cloth to polish glass, and wear neutral or dark clothing since bright colors produce more reflections. You may also want to use a polarizer to cut down on glare, but keep in mind that the polarizer will darken your exposure. 3. Take the Right Lenses If you plan to spend the whole day at the zoo, you probably don’t want to lug around a large equipment bag. You’ll need two things from your lenses: A wide aperture, and the ability to zoom in on faraway animals. The wide aperture is particularly important because the narrow depth of field will let you blur fences and other distracting elements. Choose lenses that will give you both wide apertures and a range of focal points to minimize the amount of gear you need to take. 4. Bring a Monopod The uncertain lighting within the shade or inside enclosures means that you’ll probably have to deal with slow shutter speeds at times. You can bring along a tripod, but a monopod is even better. It’s easier to move as the animals move, more portable than a tripod, and when you get tired, it doubles as a walking stick! 5. Be Aware To make images that look like they were taken while on safari, you’ll need to pay careful attention to your surroundings. Keep buildings, enclosures, and obviously man-made structures out of your images, and also pay attention to details like food and water dishes. If need be, get creative with your framing to ensure that these objects don’t intrude. You can also avoid obstacles by zooming in as close as possible. When you can capture a great expression, a close-up of an animal at the zoo has just as much power as an image that was taken in the wilderness. 6. Have Patience It may take time, but the animals you’re watching will eventually do something interesting or amusing. Watch the animals through your viewfinder as they play, and keep your finger on the shutter release – a great moment will come and you’ll be ready! The key to creating great images at the zoo is to look for unique moments that not everyone has the chance to capture. Anyone can take a quick snap of a napping tiger, but not everyone can catch him growling, pouncing or playing. 7. Get on Their Level Some photographers hesitate to crouch, lay down or climb onto a nearby bench, but if you want truly excellent images, then you need to be taking them from the animal’s eye level. Images at eye level are much more dynamic than those that are taken from above or below. 8. Be Prepared for Post Processing You’re sure to run into a situation where there is simply no way to salvage an image on-camera. Tinted glass and florescent lighting can skew your colors, while unavoidable objects will need to be cropped out or removed with a clone tool or retouching brush. Be prepared to do color and exposure correction with Photoshop, Lightroom or similar software. If the colors are way off, try a black and white conversion instead. The same goes for lighting – if you have blown out highlights or dark shadows, you may find that you can still turn the image into a beautiful piece of abstract art. If you have access to a nearby zoo, then give zoo photography a shot. With the right equipment and tactics, you can create images that any wildlife photographer would envy!

Shooting During the Golden Hour

Naturally Lighting Your Subject With Golden Hour Light often makes or breaks an image. The wrong lighting can result in harsh shadows, blown out highlights, under lit subjects and more. Soft light makes people look pretty, while harsh light usually makes people look harsh, old or flawed. Most lighting cannot be fixed later during the editing process, so starting out with good lighting is important. “In almost all photography it’s the quality of light that makes or breaks the shot. For professional photographers, chasing the light, waiting for it, sometimes helping it, and finally capturing it is a constant preoccupation — and for some an obsession.” – Michael Freeman, Capturing Light: The Heart of Photography What is Golden Hour? There is a time right before sunset and right after sunrise that has beautiful lighting. Roughly the hour after the sunrise and the hour before the sunset, the lighting is soft and majestic. The warm glow of the diffused sun creates a natural lighting effect photographers call Golden Hour. If you are shooting during Golden Hour, you nearly can’t go wrong with the lighting on your subject. Different Conditions, Different Results It is important to remember that not all Golden Hours are created equal. The result will depend on: Location (the sun might be hidden from view faster in some places than others) Pollution Levels and Particles Weather Golden Hour in one place might be better than in another, or better on another day. If you try to shoot the hour after sunrise and it is a cloudy day, you may get the sun so diffused that you cannot get enough light. Like most outdoor photography, you can’t always count on the weather to cooperate. Ways to Use Magical Golden Hour Lighting Here are some cool effects to watch for when you are shooting during Golden Hour: Backlit Rims of Light: When the sun is higher during Golden Hour (the beginning of evening Golden Hour and the end of the morning Golden Hour), you can naturally light your subject from the back and still have enough light on the face of the subject. Position the sun out of the frame and behind the subject for a glowing halo that highlights the subject’s hair and shoulders, without darkening the face too much. Frontlit: Like other times of the day, front lit pictures provide beautiful lighting. During Golden Hour, your subjects are less likely to squint and the shadows are softer. Dramatic Rays: Use the sun to create cool effects behind your subjects for amazing sunset or sunrise shots. Lens Flares: Natural lens flares are cool. During Golden Hour, you can move the camera around until you see flares in the frame – don’t forget to consider how they affect the image and composition. Silhouettes: Golden Hour is also beautiful for shooting landscapes. Focus on a backlit landscape and let your subject become a silhouette on the horizon for a unique shot. Indoors: Golden light can come through a window or doorway that offers plenty of light inside. This golden glow can make a barn, house or building light up in the same way as the outdoors do during the magical time. Long Shadows: Photography is dependant on dimension. The long shadows of Golden Hour create a depth and dimension that will make your photos more dynamic.