Wildlife can be tricky to photograph. Your subjects rarely sit, pose, or look in the direction that you want them to, so you have to be ready for when they do. I have a couple tips that might help you with that.
- Animals move a lot. Use a high shutter speed. I usually use a shutter speed of minimum of 400. You never know when the wolf you are trying to photograph is going to walk, run, jump or swat at something. Nothing is more frustrating to me than a perfectly focused picture that has a lot of blur in the feet (or worse the mouth or head) because I wasn't expecting the action. Some photographers like blur as it shows action. I don't mind blur if it is done on purpose, but even then, to me the eye is drawn to the blur and not the head of the animal where it should be. If you are using a zoom lens that doesn't have image stabilization, it can be a little trickier to get that sharp shot. Your shutter speed should be at least be equal to the zoom of the lens. If you are zoomed out to 250mm, your shutter should reflect at least 250mm, or you may end up with too much camera shake and a blurry picture. I just use image stabilized lenses, so I have one less thing to worry about.
- If you are doing portrait shots, and your wolf subject is not moving much and you want a nice portrait of the wolf's head, I change my shutter to a slower speed and a higher aperature. If I am photographing a wolf for instance, because the wolf has a long nose, if I use a low aperature of f4 ish, the nose will be in focus, but the eyes will not be sharp. If the eyes are sharp, the nose may not be. This doesn't look very good. Use a small aperature i.e. f 12 or 14 or as high as you can get it, so you can get that sharp head shot. At the same time, if your portrait shot isn't very tight and you have a busy background, you may better off to keep the aperature large at F4, so that the background is blurred out.
- So, large aperature, fast shutter, or small aperature, slow shutter? What do you do? Well, like I said, different shots require different settings to get different effects. I typically carry two cameras. One remains set with a larger aperature and faster speed setting so if the animal is moving, I pick up that camera and fire off as many shots as I can. If the wolf stops moving and sits down and it looks like he is in more of a relaxed mood, I will switch to my other camera (it is usually the one with the larger telephoto lens), so I can do some portrait shots. As soon as he gets active again, I switch back to the other camera.
- Animal interaction is great and usually much more interesting than only having one subject. The problem however is for instance, if you are photographing foxes, one fox for can be ahead of the other one slightly, so more often than not, one fox is in focus while the other one is blurry. That doesn't very often make a good picture. Try to position yourself if possible so that both foxes are the same distance from your camera. I stole this picture from the links page on my website. It is a good example illustrating motion, both foxes are the same distance from the camera and the focus is good. Also, because there is interaction, the picture can become much more ineresting than if there was just one fox in the picture. This picture illustrates an adult fox disciplining a baby fox that has gotten out of line. I love this photo. You didn't have to be there to see what was happening in the picture. Like they say, "a picture is worth a thousand words," and that is certainly the case in this fox picture.
Yes, this picture was cropped and photoshopped for my website. If you want to see other pictures of foxes, check them out on my nature website.