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Shooting wildlife


The Practicing Photographer

with Ben Long

Video: Shooting wildlife

Hi, here's something you don't see everyday. This week on the Practicing Photographer, I want to talk about going on safari. Now, what you just saw was a, a bison, an American buffalo. That we saw in a wildlife preserve in Oklahoma. Now you may think, well, is that really a safari? I promise you, when there's a, a, a buffalo right outside your car going bleh, bleh, over and over, yeah you feel like you're on safari.
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  1. 13m 55s
    1. Composing an image using what you have NEW
      4m 44s
  2. 1m 35s
    1. Introducing The Practicing Photographer
      1m 35s
  3. 12h 16m
    1. Choosing a camera
      5m 27s
    2. Looking at light as a subject
      2m 22s
    3. Using a small reflector to add fill light
      5m 45s
    4. Editing photo metadata with PhotosInfo Pro for iPad
      6m 30s
    5. Let your lens reshape you
      7m 26s
    6. Compositing street photography images with Photoshop
      7m 44s
    7. Expand your filter options with step-up and step-down rings
      3m 56s
    8. Shooting without a memory card
      3m 6s
    9. Give yourself a year-long assignment
      5m 28s
    10. Working with reflections
      1m 26s
    11. Exploring mirrorless cameras
      7m 25s
    12. Batch processing photos with the Adobe Image Processor
      7m 30s
    13. Limiting yourself to a fixed-focal-length lens
      2m 13s
    14. Creating tiny worlds: Shooting technique
      4m 15s
    15. Creating tiny worlds: Post-processing techniques
      11m 41s
    16. Shooting macro shots on an iPhone
      3m 18s
    17. Using a tripod
      3m 33s
    18. Wildlife and staying present
      5m 58s
    19. Batch exposure adjustments on raw files
      6m 52s
    20. Why Shoot Polaroid
      11m 12s
    21. Seizing an opportunity
      4m 4s
    22. Four photographers do a light-as-subject exercise
      12m 24s
    23. Shooting macro bug photos with a reversed lens
      4m 54s
    24. Varnishing a photo for a painterly effect
      13m 36s
    25. Shooting wildlife
      7m 24s
    26. Discussion on how to shoot architecture
      12m 27s
    27. Using a lens hood
      4m 48s
    28. Working with themes
      2m 48s
    29. Setting up an HDR time lapse
      7m 55s
    30. Processing an HDR time lapse
      7m 55s
    31. Two perspectives on travel photography
      12m 28s
    32. Scanning Photos
      5m 37s
    33. Photo assignment: shooting an egg
      3m 13s
    34. Reviewing the egg shot images
      6m 47s
    35. Shooting in your own backyard
      4m 38s
    36. Jpeg iPad import process
      3m 17s
    37. Shooting a product shot in open shade
      9m 34s
    38. Reviewing the product shot images
      4m 5s
    39. Warming up
      3m 26s
    40. Taking a panning action shot
      10m 17s
    41. Scanning polaroid negatives and processing in Photoshop
      8m 17s
    42. Shooting a silhouette
      3m 9s
    43. Going with an ultra-light gear configuration
      5m 29s
    44. Working with masks and calculations in Photoshop
      12m 38s
    45. Working with flash for macro photography
      4m 56s
    46. Colorizing a black and white photo in Photoshop
      5m 10s
    47. Using duct tape and zip ties in the field
      4m 14s
    48. When the on camera flash is casting a shadow
      3m 4s
    49. Using Lightroom on the road
      6m 28s
    50. Listening to your camera to get good exposure
      2m 20s
    51. Shooting a successful self portrait with a phone
      7m 18s
    52. Switching to Lightroom from another application
      9m 48s
    53. Photographing animals in wildlife refuges
      6m 41s
    54. Shooting level
      2m 42s
    55. Photoshop and Automator
      8m 54s
    56. Shooting when the light is flat
      3m 23s
    57. Discussing the business of stock photography
      9m 48s
    58. Shooting tethered to a monitor
      3m 21s
    59. Making a 360 degree panorama on the iPhone
      4m 45s
    60. Understanding the three flash setup
      3m 34s
    61. Shooting a three flash portrait
      4m 6s
    62. Understanding the differences with third party lenses
      4m 43s
    63. Understanding why files look different on depending on device
      5m 25s
    64. Working with a geotagging app on the iPhone
      4m 43s
    65. Using high speed flash sync to dim ambient light
      7m 29s
    66. Using your iPad as a second monitor
      5m 46s
    67. Understanding exposure with a leaf shutter camera
      3m 28s
    68. Photography practice through mimicry
      8m 8s
    69. Canon wireless flash with built in radio control
      5m 59s
    70. Posing and shooting pairs of people
      5m 35s
    71. Shooting with a shape in mind
      3m 15s
    72. Shooting tethered to a laptop
      4m 40s
    73. Softboxes vs. umbrellas
      2m 55s
    74. Getting your project out into the world
      6m 25s
    75. Exploring how to think about shooting a new environment
      3m 56s
    76. Discussing the book "The Passionate Photographer" with Steve Simon
      6m 4s
    77. Highlighting iOS 8 updates on the iPhone5S
      10m 46s
    78. Exploring manual controls with iOS 8 and ProCamera
      5m 30s
    79. Understanding how to compose with an empty sky
      4m 54s
    80. Using an iPhone to make a print in the darkroom
      7m 16s
    81. How to use glycerin as a photography tool
      2m 16s
    82. Understanding micro focus adjustment and Lens Align
      11m 19s
    83. Working with hair in post
      3m 28s
    84. Taking a quick portrait and directing a subject
      5m 50s
    85. Getting inspired through the work of others
      11m 22s
    86. Taking a flattering portrait with flash
      4m 21s
    87. Creating an unaligned HDR image
      3m 3s
    88. Exploring how to use Bokeh
      5m 38s
    89. Shooting stills from a drone
      6m 57s
    90. Using a monitor to get a first person view of the aerial camera
      8m 0s
    91. Understanding lens profile correction
      5m 33s
    92. Working with models
      2m 40s
    93. Understanding the labels on SD cards
      10m 32s
    94. Setting up a macro time lapse of a flower
      6m 18s
    95. Taking a portrait that's tightly cropped or slightly obscured
      3m 24s
    96. Tips for shooting panoramas
      7m 16s
    97. Carrying a point-and-shoot camera
      4m 44s
    98. Adjusting the color of shadows in an image
      5m 35s
    99. Evaluating camera-strap options
      4m 42s
    100. The 100th Practicing Photographer
      3m 31s
    101. Using light-pollution maps for planning night shoots
      3m 26s
    102. Shooting a series of star shots for a stack
      8m 32s
    103. Stitching together stacks of stars
      8m 59s
    104. Understanding how to clean sensor dust
      10m 27s
    105. Dry sensor cleaning
      6m 23s
    106. Cleaning the sensor with moisture
      7m 32s
    107. Composing in the center
      2m 48s
    108. Working with an electronic shutter control
      2m 50s
    109. Understanding how to use the Wi-Fi feature in some cameras
      2m 56s
    110. Exploring the software equivalent to graduated ND (neutral density) filters
      7m 8s
    111. Don't be predictable in your framing
      10m 21s
    112. Shooting with ND filter and flash to balance subject and background exposure
      2m 42s
    113. Understanding when to go low contrast
      3m 15s
    114. Reasons for shooting images alone
      4m 5s
    115. Working with colored lens filters and converting to black and white
      14m 4s
    116. Waiting for a subject when the light is good
      5m 2s
    117. Understanding options for tripod heads
      7m 23s
    118. Shooting a slow-shutter zoom-and-spin shot for light effect
      4m 47s
    119. Shooting and processing a long exposure at night
      10m 0s
    120. Getting creative with image curation
      4m 12s
    121. Why equivalent lenses don't always meter the same
      5m 42s
    122. Pulling stills from a timelapse NEW
      6m 8s

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Watch the Online Video Course The Practicing Photographer
12h 32m Appropriate for all May 16, 2013 Updated Sep 03, 2015

Viewers: in countries Watching now:

In The Practicing Photographer, photographer and teacher Ben Long shares a weekly serving of photographic instruction and inspiration. Each installment focuses on a photographic shooting scenario, a piece of gear, or a software technique. Each installment concludes with a call to action designed to inspire you to pick up your camera (or your mouse or smartphone) to try the technique for yourself.

Ben Long

Shooting wildlife

Hi, here's something you don't see everyday. This week on the Practicing Photographer, I want to talk about going on safari. Now, what you just saw was a, a bison, an American buffalo. That we saw in a wildlife preserve in Oklahoma. Now you may think, well, is that really a safari? I promise you, when there's a, a, a buffalo right outside your car going bleh, bleh, over and over, yeah you feel like you're on safari.

I've actually been on safari and its a really interesting way to shoot. It's a really fun thing to do. If you're into wildlife photography, or if you're just into animals. It's definitely something to look into. That said, you need to manage your expectations, photographically. And understand just what it is you're getting into. Now, in this situation, we probably weren't actually in any danger from the blehing buffalo. But still, we really didn't want to get out of the car. And it made shooting very interesting. I had a long lens with me, which was good. I was able to get some okay shots of this buffalo, who is standing right there.

But trying to shoot through a window is difficult. Trying to shoot when you can't really move around is difficult. And that's what you're going to expect if you go on an actual big game safari. Now when you're on an African safari, you're hoping to see the big five and honestly I can never remember what they are. There's lions and giraffes and and three other things. Anyway, it's a little bit frustrating. It's a little bit like mushroom hunting or something. You're just, you're out and you're hoping you're going to see them but you may not and obviously you don't have any control over that.

So that's another bit of managing your expectation. This happened to us actually just the other day in the wildlife preserve that we were in. We saw these buffalo. And I was really hoping to see some long horned steers because I know that they're in the same park. And just by chance, right near the end of the day, we saw a few just crossing the road. So what you're really hoping for is to get to see some behavior or to get to get those one or two good images. If you're really expecting that you're going to see one of each of the animals that are in the park, that may not be true. So you need to kind of ready yourself for possibly dissapointment.

On a big game safari, you're going to be in a safari vehicle like this one. It can hold four to six people, sometimes even more. You're going to have a driver who's driving it around and you're going to have a tracker who sits on the front. And these two people are amazing in their ability to see things. And that's what actually makes a safari worth while, is that odds are, you really are going to see something. They're usually in radio contact with other vehicles. So if someone spots a kill, they can radio other people. So you really do stand a good chance of seeing something.

I got to see lions and leopards and water buffalo and lots of other things. That said, photographically, I'm limited by what I can do from that vehicle. Now, the good news is that a pride of lions that are eating something don't actually recognize a car load of humans as meals on wheels. They just ignore it. As long as you stay in the vehicle, you're okay. Even leaning out of the vehicle can apparently cause trouble. But that means that photographically, you're limited to just what you can do from your seat.

And it was often very frustrating. I'd have almost a great shot, but there'd be a stalk of grass in the way. And if I could've just taken a step to the left, I would've been okay, but that wasn't possible. Sometimes you can say to the driver, can you back up a few feet, and they'll do that. But at other times, that's not possible, because there's a boulder a few feet behind you, or a cliff or a river or something like that, so you are somewhat limited. So, that doesn't mean you can't get great shots. I got a lot of shots that I really like when I went on safari. But you do have to really manage your expectations and know that you're in a somewhat limited shooting situation.

What do you want to take with you? You want to take a good, long lens, as we discussed before, and you can learn more about that in my specialty lenses course. You might want to look into getting a mono-pod. One thing that's nice about these safari vehicles is there's plenty of space around the seat, so you do have room to get a mono-pod going. You will often be in shade. You will be going out very early in the morning. The animals in Africa are most active at sunrise and sunset, so you tend to get up before sunrise and head out. It can be very cool in those hours, so you're going to want layers.

You might also look into getting a mount that will stabilize your camera that can fit over the edge of a car. If you Google around on this stuff, you'll find a lot of different mounts you can use for stabilizing a camera on the edge of a car. That's great for safari work, particularly if you're working with a very long lens. Obviously, you need to know your gear well enough to work very, very quickly, because situations can change incredibly fast. An animal can come through your field of view and be gone before you have a chance to take a shot. And because you're not incredibly mobile, you can't necessarily follow it around.

There are two types of safari's you can go on. The type that I'm talking about where you are in a guided safari vehicle moving off road into places that you could never get to on your own and having the support of radio contact and people who know how to really identify things. And figure out where the good sites are. The other option is to drive yourself. There are parks throughout Africa that you can drive through on paved roads. You are not allowed to get out of your car. Doesn't mean you can't get out of your car, and I'm not advocating that for a moment, but I did get out of my car.

I stood right next to the car, really ready to open the door and jump back into it. I was also like half a mile from these lions that I was shooting, and I had a very long lens. Still, I would not have wanted to have ventured farther than arm's length from my car. Working that way, again, you're limited to paved roads. You don't know where there is anything. And you're not getting the natural history information that you get from having a guided tour. Whereas there's a guy telling you this is a, one of those things and here's how they work and here's something about their culture and their, their behavior. What's also nice about those guys is boy, they can spot things that you would never see in a million years.

Now, I was out there thinking, well, this is great, and all, and I'm learning a lot, and it's very interesting, but I've gotten better pictures of, say, elephants, in the zoo. And that's true. The access you get in a, in a zoo is much nicer and you've got more mobility and you're closer. What's interesting about being on safari is, you see behavior. Yes, I can go to a zoo and see an individual elephant and get real close to it. But when I was on safari, I got to see like, an elephant family reunion. All of these elephants gathering in a watering hole and greeting each other and playing and exhibiting this elephant behavior that I would never ever get to see with elephants in captivity.

Whether the photos I got from that are any good doesn't matter so much. I really feel like I saw something really special by actually being out there in the wild. So, if you're interested in going on a safari, if you've been planning it, or if you're wanting to know more about it, I would Google around on particular game reserves. There's a difference between a private reserve where you're going to be guided, and where you're maybe going to see very particular animals, and one of the big game parks where you could do guided or drive yourself through. At that point, you're going to want to look into gear selection. Again, mounts, long lenses. If you're thinking, I don't want to spend $2,000 on a lens just to take on safari, don't forget about lens rental.

Renting a lens for a month can be a very inexpensive way of getting yourself some telephoto power for that trip. Then, of course, you're going to want to look into overall costs of things. Don't forget that you're not just going on safari. You're going a long way to get there. So you're going to want to look into padding some other things around your trip. It may not be the greatest photographic experience that you'll ever have. But it will certainly be a life-changing experience.

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