Photo Trainer

Phototrips and Phototips

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Phototrips

I lead photographic workshops to various destinations, including South Africa, Botswana and Kenya.

Phototips

I have created a series of books and interactive CD-ROMs. To find out more, contact us.

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Misty light for mystifying images

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misty_light

Misty mornings are what many photographers dream of. When the mist is low, it can create beautiful scenes and moody images. But it is difficult to get the most out of a misty morning.

Beginner tip

When it is misty, don’t attempt photographing subjects that are too far away because the mist between you and the subject will ruin all its detail.

Lighting tip

When the morning is particularly misty, drive to the areas where the mist starts to break up. This normally occurs against hills or as you drive out of a riverbed. There, where the sun is just breaking through the mist, is where you will get the best images, provided, of course, that a good subject presents itself there.

How you can take a similar image

Lens: Medium telephoto lens to capture some of the misty background in the image.

Settings: Medium aperture. Low ISO. Change the camera exposure compensation to approximately +1. This will prevent the camera light meter from underexposing the image as a result of the brightness of the mist.

How: Wait for the subjects to interact.

 

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Telephoto lens

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A telephoto lens is any lens that magnifies the subject, i.e. a lens longer than 85mm. Telephoto lenses are divided into further subtypes, namely: medium telephoto lenses and super telephoto lenses.

Beginner tip

A telephoto lens is a necessity for wildlife photography. It will open a whole new world to you because you will be able to photograph animals at a distance and yet still fill the frame with the subject. Rather buy one good telephoto lens than try to cover the whole range with a number of mediocre lenses.

Pro tip

In our opinion, the perfect perspective lens for wildlife photography is 300-500mm. When you use a lens in this range, the subject will look the most natural and the balance between subject and background will be just right.

How you can take a similar image

Lens: Telephoto lens.

Settings: Maximum aperture. Low ISO.

How: When you find yourself in a beautiful dune landscape that will make a stunning background, drive or walk around until you find a subject to photograph against it. Just remember to take your tripod along if you walk.

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Wide angle lens

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A wide angle lens is any lens shorter than 50mm. If you attach a wide angle lens to your camera, everything will look smaller than the reality. A wide angle lens is used mostly for landscapes and scenery.

Beginner tip

Don’t be intimidated by other people’s big lenses. Sometimes it is better to use a wide angle lens – even when photographing wildlife.

Pro tip

Most professional photographers own an ultra wide angle zoom lens, i.e. 14-24mm or 16-35mm f2.8. This is an extremely useful lens, for with it you can distort reality and make most scenes more dramatic than they really are. This lens accentuates perspective and pulls the viewer into the image.

How you can take a similar image

Lens: Wide angle lens (shorter than 50mm).

Settings: Small aperture (f11-f22). Low ISO.

How: Make sure that your shutter speed is faster than the length of the lens, i.e. it should be at least 1/30 second if you use a 28mm lens. If it is not faster than the length of the lens, support the lens on a bracket or a bean bag.

 

From the book Phototips – Principles of Nature Photography

Buy the book from Book Forest and have it delivered for free.

 

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Contrasting light – the no-go zone

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The light during the middle of a sunny day in Africa is often too contrasting for photography. If you try to photograph under these circumstances, the light will appear harsh and the shadows will appear as black holes in the image. Follow the example of the animals and take a siesta during the middle of the day.

Beginner tip

A photograph taken in the middle of the day is almost always doomed not to be as you expected it to be. There is no camera or lens on earth that can fix bad light.

Lighting tip

The only time when you can photograph in harsh light and still get a decent result is if there is enough action in the image. In this image the light was terrible, but the action terrific. The interest of the action outweighed the bad light.

How you can take a similar image

Lens: Super telephoto lens.

Settings: Maximum aperture. Low ISO.

How: The only reasons why this image works are because of the action and the fact the light falls on the badger’s back foot. When you have to photograph in this light, wait for action or use a fill-flash to fill the black shadows cast by the harsh light.

 

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Aperture priority is the priority

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The most practical shooting mode for nature photography is one of the semi-automatic modes: Program, Aperture Priority or Shutter Priority.

Beginner tip

If you are only starting out, don’t worry too much about the exposure settings on the camera: concentrate on taking beautifully composed images. However, stay away from the completely automatic settings or manual. Aim at using Aperture Priority as soon as you can – it is the way to go.

Pro tip

We almost always have our cameras set on Aperture Priority. If we want to achieve a certain shutter speed, we change our aperture and ISO until we reach it. Under certain circumstances we would set the camera to Manual mode, especially when using flash. These days with customisable Auto ISO and other settings, it is possible to program your automatic settings so that they are practical to use in Program mode. But if you want to use Program mode, don’t just switch on the Auto ISO, as it results in a too slow shutter speed for most applications.

How you can take a similar image

Lens: Super telephoto lens.

Settings: Medium aperture. Medium ISO.

How: If you are fortunate enough to get fairly close to a turaco to take a head shot, you have to keep your own head. Use the camera on Av and close down the aperture by a few stops to make sure that the whole head is in focus. But when you dial down, keep an eye on the shutter speed. You don’t want camera shake. If the shutter speed becomes too low, increase your ISO.

 

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