Join Paul Taggart for an in-depth discussion in this video Reviewing gear from a preserve shoot, part of Photographing Wildlife at a Preserve.
- After talking to the owner of the preserve, I've got a better idea of what kind of access I have at this location. This is my first day here and he's basically given me access to walk completely around the property, I'm just not allowed to touch or open any gates. But I am allowed to shoot through any of the fences. I was a little worried that this might be the situation. In all of my experience in wildlife photography there's never been a fence between me and my subject, but this is something we're just going to work with. I've got a lot of different gear here, some of this is my personal gear, and then one thing that I've done that's a little bit different, is I've actually rented a lens.
A 300 millimeter f/2.8. I don't like to get too caught up in gear, and I really hate it when young photographers or photographers that are starting out get caught up on not being able to do the craft because of the expense of the equipment. But unfortunately, in wildlife photography, if you are going to be that far away from your subject matter, having a longer lens can make or break the shot. That said, there's ways to work around that. You can get cheaper glass, you can use zoom lenses instead of primes.
I'm fortunate enough that I was able to get access to a 300 millimeter prime lens, which is a beautiful lens. I haven't shot with it in probably 10 years, but I used to do a bit of sports photography, and this is one of the go-to lenses for that. The other thing, just to talk about money a little bit, is most people couldn't afford a lens like this, I can't afford a lens like this. Would never be able to pay it off with the kind of jobs that I do. But there are lots of companies out there now, that have very affordable ways of renting equipment like this, which is exactly what I did, is I just rented this for the three days of this trip.
So, you can have access to this equipment if you want. There's a few things when using gear like this though, you've got to keep in mind. This is a pretty sizable lens. Like I said, it's not a zoom, this is a prime lens, it's strictly just a 300 millimeter. But it's extremely fast, it's an f/2.8, which means what's out of focus is going to be very out of focus, and what's going to be in focus is going to be extremely sharp.
Which, for wildlife photography, is awesome, because you can have your zebra, your giraffe, in a really tight, sharp focus, and your background can be nice and soft. Which can be a great tool out here, with the fences and other things. Because I don't want this to look like I'm at a preserve, I want it to look like we're out in the wild. And by shooting at a shallow depth of field, I'm hopefully going to be able to throw that background out of focus. With a lens like this, though, one of the big things you've got to remember is the lens weighs significantly more than the camera.
My camera weighs almost nothing in comparison to this 300 millimeter lens. Which means, you don't want to put too much of the weight of this on the small little Nikon mount. It's a good way to break your camera body. So, what I mean by that is, if I was going to lift this up, you wouldn't lift it up from here, and then try to turn it up, you're putting too much pressure at this point right here. Another thing is, it's okay to hold your lens on your side like this with this strap, but as a general rule, you might want to put your strap right here, there's two brackets, and I think that the rental actually came with that.
But again, when you're shooting, you don't put all your weight right here, you're actually going to hold the lens itself. You can't sneak around with something like this. It's a little big. Another great option on this, is it's got some DR, which actually takes out a lot of the shake when you're shooting. But when you activate that, it's going to drain the battery of your camera significantly.
Which is fine, as long as you think ahead and bring out a couple extra charged bricks with you. Or if you're driving around in a car, maybe have a charging station set up in the car. For our purposes today, we're going to be walking around on our feet, so I'm just going to take two or three extra batteries with me for this camera. I'm also going to be walking around, which means I don't want to take this huge kit with me, so I'm just going to pick the equipment that I want, and then go out there so I'm not carrying around a lot.
Also I'm not sure what these animals are like, but my experience in photographing wildlife, is you've got to move kind of fast sometimes. When I was shooting the mountain gorillas, you didn't want to have a whole lot of stuff on your body, like if one of them charged you or something, you're supposed to stay still. But you also still want to be mobile and get out of the way. I've already got a nice long lens, I'm taking that 300, so my instinct is to actually take a wide angle with me, just in case one of the animals get closer. But since I'm shooting through the fence, that's my primary problem that I'm trying to get around in my head, is I'm thinking a lens where the barrel is smaller, less of a diameter, might be a great thing, because I might be able to stick the end element of the lens through the fence.
That way I can just eliminate the fence altogether. So as cool as a 300 millimeter might be, the end of this might not fit through the fence, so something like this might actually work out better. I've got another option in here. Is I've been shooting with this really small camera lately. It's just a little Fuji, it might not be considered a professional camera. It's got a smaller sensor. But, what it does have, are much smaller lenses. And so, for instance, if I take the hood off of this little 135, the end of that lens, in comparison to even the zoom here, is much smaller.
The chances of fitting this through the fence are pretty good. And the quality of the image is just about the same. The other concern is, because I can't walk any closer to the animals than the fence, I might need something that's even longer than say a 300 millimeter. You can get what's called a doubler, which is a little tube right here that would make this equivalent to a longer lens, it could be a 600, or an 800 millimeter lens. I don't have one of those, but what I do have, is a mount adapter, that'll take my Nikon lens, and allow me to put it on this little Fuji, which is going to look really silly, to have this little camera attached to this big lens, but because this has closer to a micro 4/3 sensor, it means that it's almost going to double the length of this lens, so, I'm hoping I don't have to do that, I'm hoping I can be closer to these animals than that, but if need be, I'm going to have that option.