Tor McIntosh | Freelance writer and photographer

Wildlife Photography

Interview with professional wildlife photographers for Wild Travel bookazine

Wildlife is notoriously difficult to photograph, but with a little preparation anyone can improve the end result. TOR McINTOSH spoke to professional photographers JONATHAN and ANGELA SCOTT, DAISY GILARDINI and ANDREW PARKINSON to learn the secrets of the trade.

One of the first principles that any budding wildlife photographer must learn in order to create well balanced and interesting photos is how to compose a photograph and the best way to put this into practice is to follow the ‘rule of thirds’. By imagining that your viewfinder is a grid split into nine equal spaces this compositional rule recommends that you place the focal point of your photograph on one of the four intersecting lines on this imaginary grid – this ensures subjects are not placed directly in the middle of the frame and horizons do not cut through the centre of your photograph. However, Daisy recommends setting aside hard-and-fast compositional rules – “remember that rules are made to be broken” – and suggests that you should focus on simplicity; she encourages photographers to play with lines, shapes, forms, textures and colours if they want to create a well composed  image.

The most popular photographs of wildlife tend to be portraits, but Daisy stresses that it’s important to make sure a subject’s eyes are sharp and open, and, if possible, she recommends trying to catch the highlight in the eyes of your subject to help them stand out. Jonathan has learnt from his wife Angela, who he believes to be the more creative of the pair, how to take interesting portrait shots. “One tip she has taught me is to crop in tighter on an animal’s face; she often crops off the head of her subject to emphasise the eyes.” However, limiting your wildlife photography to portraits is not the answer to producing professional standard images. Andrew believes that by setting your subject in the context of its natural environment is vital for telling its story and, as Daisy adds, this technique is also a good way to give a sense of scale. For example, she will include a person in a photograph of a penguin rookery to show how small the penguins are and the vastness of the rookery.

It can be tempting to always shoot from the same vantage point, either standing up or, if you’re on safari, from the roof hatch of a jeep. But remember to always change position. Daisy often moves around her subject to catch different aspects, backgrounds and lighting, whereas Jonathan and Angela try to decide their vantage point in advance, depending on what they plan to be shooting – a high perspective (such as from a roof hatch) is perfect for capturing a pride of lions flanked around a kill, but to make a single male lion look impressive they’ll shoot from a lower angle, using a waist-level finder (WLF), to get eyeball-to-eyeball with the subject.

Read the full article here.

Published in Wild Travel, Winter 2011/12