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Principles for successful wildlife photography – Part 2

6) Patience

To get that really WOW shot you have to be patient. Animals are not well-trained actors that you can set up for the shot. You have to sit and wait. Most of the times for hours or days or even weeks before the animal will present you with that perfect shot. But while you are waiting, get creative and take some other shots, of compositions, portraits and small detail. Never stop shooting.


7) Work the light

Quality of light is one of the most important elements of photography. The word, after all, derives from the Greek words for “light drawing”. Light affects everything about an image, from the way a subject looks to the mood it conveys, and light is always changing. Each moment of the day has its own quality of light, as do various kinds of weather and different seasons. And qualities of light- of direction and colour – fit different scenes and moods.

For wildlife photography the first 2 to 3 hours of the day and the last 2 to 3 hours of the day presents the best quality of light. The sun is at a nice low angle. This gives very good structure and detail in the subject. This is also the best time to use back lighting for silhouettes and nice moody shots with warm colours. Especially the first hour, and the last hour of the day.

From first light on you need to constantly adjust your camera setting to be ready when an opportunity presents itself.


8) Different angles

Try different angles to photograph your subject. For me the best way to photograph an animal is to be as close as possible to the eye level of it. If you work from a vehicle, it is not always possible but go as low as possible. Sometimes you want to show it more from a higher lever but sometimes a lower angle gives more impact. It accentuates the size of the animal, like for e.g. an elephant.

Sometimes you want to show the animal or the bird more in its environment, or show a more close-up and intimate image. Try to shoot just a portrait of the animal. Play with different ideas.


9) Learn the rules and how to break them

 Someone once said that there are no rules. Compositional Rules are there with good reason. Masters of the art created them. Make a study of the paintings of the big masters and you will be surprised how the majority of them stayed strictly to the rules of composition. I did just that and I must say that the majority of artwork just works better with those rules.

But then, rules can also be broken. There is nothing wrong with breaking them. There are also masters that effectively broke rules with great success. But remember you need to know the rules to break them effectively.


10) Enjoy the experience

Very important. Go out and enjoy the moment.   Enjoy the experience. Become passionate about the amazing art of photography and work on it to create and make beautiful images that tells the viewer something about the animal or bird that you are photographing.


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Principles for successful Wildlife Photography – Part 1

This is a question I received very often. “What are the important things I need to know to be able to take a good wildlife photo”? A lot of people have already written about this. There are many different opinions about it. But I have decided to mention the ten most important points for me. These are the principles I use and I believe they give the best chance on success in wildlife photography.

1) Know the basics of photography

It is very important to at least know the basics of photography. You need to know and understand exposure.

It is very important that you know and understand the exposure triangle of APERTURE, SHUTTER SPEED and ISO SPEED. How to manipulate this triangle for optimal exposure for the effect that you are visualising.

Know the principles of DEPTH OF FIELD. What is DEPTH OF FIELD? Know and understand the three elements that influence the DEPTH OF FIELD.

Know and understand WHITE BALLANCE. Know how to apply it correctly.

Know your camera metering and know how your camera’s focusing system works.


2) Know your equipment

It is very important to know how your camera, lenses and other equipment work. I have seen many times when photographers go with me on safari, or when they attend one of my workshops that they have never studied the manual of their camera. They don’t know how or where to change certain settings. They don’t know how to set up the camera for their style of shooting.

So, know your camera. I practiced on my camera to do the most important adjustments without taking my eyes away from the viewfinder or off my subject. This is where you usually miss to capturing that critical moment. Know your lens and how to use it optimally. Know your lens characteristics and how to work around its shortcomings (if it has any). For e.g. The Canon 100-400L lens (the old version) is not very sharp at f5.6 at 400mm., but from f6.8 onwards especially from f7.1 it is very sharp. Many other lenses and makes of lenses have shortcomings. But know them and how to work around it.

Know your support equipment and how they work.

Know how to properly take care of your equipment so it does not fail you on a critical moment.








3) Know your subject

It is so important to know your subject, which you are going to photograph. Make a study of the animals and birds. Study their habitat and behaviour. In this way you will be able to anticipate what they are going to do next so that you can be ready when the action is about to take place. That is what will make your images stand out, when you can capture the behaviour and the character of the animal or bird.

Suzi Esterass says:

“….. When it comes to analysing my career behind the camera, ‘photography’ comes second”.

“Knowing the animal, what they might do next, is absolutely critical”, “The animal behaviour is the most important part of what I do.”

They tell writers to write what they know; Ezterhas has the same advice for photographers. At least for a while, she says, set aside the camera and really get to know your subject.

Find that thing you love, park yourself at its door, and watch.

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4) Capture the soul of the animal

What differentiates a really great photo from an ordinary photo? The image that tells you more about that animal. Its, character, its personality and its soul. That is what makes a photograph stand out. This is even more a reason to really study the animal, their habitat and their behaviour.



5) Planning

How do you get that really great photograph? Sometimes if you are really lucky you get that once in a lifetime shot by pure luck. But to get luckier it is important to do good planning. It goes hand in hand with studying the animal. If you know their habitat and behaviour, you can plan where, when and how to get yourself in the right position or time to capture the perfect shot.



How do you get that really “wow” photo?

Part 2 following soon!

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Conservation of the Bearded Vulture



Adult Bearded Vulture
Adult Bearded Vulture 

Since it is the International Vulture Awareness day today I have decided to write something about the Bearded Vulture.


I gathered some interesting information and facts about the bearded Vulture from “Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife” as well as the “Vulture Conservation Foundation” as well as the work of Sonja Kruger (Regional Ecologist West uKhahlamba, Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife)


The reason for me to focus on the Bearded Vulture is Continue reading Conservation of the Bearded Vulture

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Paradise fly-catcher

Ok, here it is. My first blog. I was wondering what I should write on my blog. There are so many things to write about and I was playing around with a few ideas.

To really photograph wildlife successfully, it is very important to do a study of wild animals and birds’ behavior. That’s why I decided to write a series about just that.

Know your subject

There are so many lessons we as humans can learn in nature. It is a non-stop source of knowledge. If I take a look back at my career as a Wildlife/Nature photographer, photography comes second. Knowing the animal, what their next move might be is absolutely critical. The animal behavior is the most important part. As a photographer, at least for a while, set aside the camera and really get to know your subject. Then you can plan how to take the photos. Plan the direction of the sun. The angle from where you can take the best shots and what time of the day will be the best. Get your camera setting ready. This will help you get that “wow “shots without being surprised.

Building the nest

This blog is about the Paradise fly-catcher. We watched them for about two months. We studied them from where they started to build their nest up to where the chicks arrived and where they started to raise them.

Paradise Fly Catcher
Paradise Fly Catcher

I always wondered how they built their nest so strong and compact. As we watched them I was amazed. Continue reading Paradise fly-catcher