Searching for Compositions in Wildlife Picture taking: A Case Study

The first component of wildlife photography is encountering a subject. The next is making the most out of that encounter. It is easy to end up with boring pictures of your subject if you get caught up in trying to document the animal and don’t search for powerful compositions.

After all, the goal of a photographer is to create an image that is more than the sum of its components.   There are four queries you can ask yourself in the heat from the moment which will help you find the best composition:

  1. What aspects of the scene do I wish to highlight?
  2. How can I move myself to improve the composition?
  3. Exactly where is the light coming from?
  4. Precisely why is I taking the photograph like this?

In this article, I will tackle these questions to help you make the most out of the scene presented to you. It starts with a journey towards the Florida Everglades.

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There Are Crocodiles in the Water

When I visited Everglades National Park, I had one species in mind: the American Crocodile. The American Crocodile is a formidable reptile which ranges into the United States only in the extreme southern portion of the Lakewood ranch Peninsula. They are less valued than lions and owls among wildlife photographers, so I sought to photograph these questions way which would convey precisely how impressive they are.

The sky was overcast and the sun low in this sky in the morning. I had arrived at the boat ramps and bassine where I knew crocodiles ended up being most commonly seen, but the first of all ones I saw were far away and mostly submerged. Such as exciting as it was to see these individuals, I knew there was a long way to get before getting a photo I had been happy with.

So , I waited. After a torrential downpour – hardly unheard of in Florida – fresh water flowed from the shoreline to the brackish estuary. The thirsty crocs wanted to drink. Someone bold individual swam up to me, interested in some runoff from the storm. I knew it turned out time to shoot.

This is meat of animals photography: the moment you appear face-to-face with your subject. Being the photographer, you have to think quickly. It can be tempting to forego creativity and do nothing but official document everything you’re seeing as swiftly as possible. But mindless blasting is what yields “blah” pictures. Instead, you must focus on locating a better composition.

As it turns out, as handy as a 10-foot reptile is without question, when only the eyes as well as nose are protruding over a surface of the water, much more a difficult subject. That’s extremely true since I was shooting when standing up and looking down for the croc in profile.

american crocodile bad composition
My initial snapshot, documentary and uninteresting

Even though the crocodile was a few feet away from me, my images happen to be just documents and not your creative work I shoot for. Thankfully, this particular crocodile was your perfect subject and gave me some time to slow down, picture, and work to find the best composition. All I needed to do had been ask myself the a number of questions:

1 . What aspects of the particular scene do I want to mention?

Needless to say you want to highlight your wildlife subject, but what specifically? Understandably it is the eyes, which are the majority of expressive aspects of your course (most frequent case). It might also be spectacularly colored plumage, an interesting pattern, or the big silhouetted shape of your subject. Maybe it’s even the atmosphere around the animal, or a fantastic background that leads to fantastic bokeh .

Then you have got to find the best way to highlight that part of your scene or perhaps subject. It may require repositioning yourself, reframing, or changing your settings. Some unique ways to bring attention to the exact aspects of interest include: changing depth of field, adjusting exposure, zooming in as well as out, and changing your disposition.

For example , you would highlight the colorful affectionate eyes of your subject by using a compact depth of field, cruising in, and framing often the eyes to be centered ınside your photo. Alternatively, you could talk about the shape of something light like an egret by underexposing the image slightly and perhaps improving highlights in post-processing, getting look like a spotlight is glowing on your subject.

2 . How can I carry myself to improve the composition?

Somebody a tree! Maybe if you’re in a blind, or are blasting a subject that would flee in the slightest movement, you don’t have numerous options to move around. But if you have the luxury, take advantage of it.   This is one of the reasons I personally don’t especially like to shoot with a tripod. I prefer having the flexibility to help quickly change my photographing position, since it has a really strong impact on composition.

So , where exactly do you move to get the ideal composition? Since you’ve currently identified the points of interest you ought to highlight in your shot, it could be easy. Just move up, decrease, and sideways until folks points of interest are prominent.

Often , the biggest transformations you can make (at least quickly) involve the appearance of the background. If you already don’t have the time or space to move your camera very far, just shifting it by a couple of feet can certainly dramatically change the background for your subject, which has a great impact on how much the subject sticks out.

For example , if part of my background is undoubtedly sky, and the other element is a brown bush, is considered often very easy to position our subject in front of either pros. I’m sure you can imagine what sort of bright bluebird would house more against the bush, plus a brown heron would stand out more against the sky.

Your angle in addition impacts what part of the target is more visible. If you aim from a higher angle (as I did with the crocodile shot from earlier), you get more of the top of your subject’s brain. Alternatively, shooting at the subject’s eye level can give you an additional intimate view that or perhaps less like a documentary injection.

What is important is that you do not remain in the arrears shooting position. It’s better to think about all possible projects, and to consider that perhaps small camera movements can big difference to both the target and its surroundings.

3. Where would be the light coming from?

This is one of the most significant questions you should always be thinking as a photographer. Depending on the incidents it may be best to shoot while using light, utilize sidelight, as well as shoot against it.

It may seem trivial to find out where the light is coming right from, especially on clear days and nights early in the morning or past due in the afternoon. But it’s not always so clear. Regardless if the sun is seemingly above your head, you can have a wide variety of lighting situations: patchy clouds, leaves inside of a forest, or even underwater lamps conditions.

Once you’re aware of the sun’s position and intensity ~ including how it casts light and shadows within your subject – you will be able to look at photos that are more deliberate. How you use that information when positioning your camcorder is up to you. In some cases, you might prefer soft frontlighting of which shows all the details on your issue matter clearly. Other times, the lady shadows and dynamic mild of sidelighting may make for a more interesting image.

Lastly, even when the sun possibly your only light source, keep in mind that you’ve still got room to change the light inside your wildlife photos. Imagine taking photos at a small pond early on in the morning. From one side in the pond, you get frontlight that illuminates your subject without harsh shadows; from the several other, you’ll be shooting backlit silhouettes!   The choice is yours to make, but be sure that wherever an individual position yourself, you do and so intentionally.

4. Why am I taking the photo like this?

This is the last query to think about – and also the first. Why are you composing such as this and not some other way?

If you can’t answer the fact that question, chances are that you’re not really putting enough thought into the composition and camera locate. Remember, as a photographer, that you are an artist. It is in the long run up to you to determine what your image appears to be. Once you notice that you’re using photos with thoughtless, “happenstance” compositions, it’s time to deal with these four questions just as before.

Back in the Crocodiles

We left reduced in the middle of my first next encounter with a bold American Crocodile. I was unhappy with my documentary profile cups. In short, I couldn’t answer the question: Why am I taking photo like this? It was only the quickest and easiest combination from where I happened to be standing. So , I needed to go through the other questions again.

  1. What aspects of the landscape did I want to highlight? Lacking many aspects to work with, I had taken the obvious choice, the eye-sight. To really bring attention to your crocodile’s eyes, I needed to help shoot head on, not an user profile like I first performed.
  2. How can I move myself to increase the composition? It sounded that if I walked throughout the shore a bit, I could have front of the croc not to mention take a head-on picture.
  3. Exactly where is the light coming from? It absolutely was a pretty overcast day, plus the crocodile was brightly illuminated from all directions. So , I could give attention to standing in the spot that presented the best composition.

Then it was as far as implementing what I just noticed, so that I could give a far better answer to question #4.

I started just by trying to position myself and even my camera properly. To make things a bit tricky, often the crocodile was drifting similar to the shore with the existing. It was not stationary. After I ran down the shore, I did to dangle part of my body and my camera off the seawall to get a low plenty of angle to make the eyes significant and capture the looming crocodile head-on and symmetrically.

As the is definitely the approached, I noticed another aspect of interest that I hadn’t experienced before. The croc’s dental was protruding from its nostril! What a cool sight along with an useful contribution to the major image I had in mind. We incorporated this aspect of this crocodile by widening my depth of field using an aperture of f/11. However took several shots with the hope that one would turn out symmetrical. This one did.

expressive head on photo of american crocodile
DC-G9 + LUMIX R VARIO 100-300mm F4-5. six @ 193mm, ISO eight hundred, 1/125, f/11. 0

As I dangled off the seawall in front of some fast-approaching 10-foot crocodile, the question “Why am I taking the snapshot like this? ” was a problem I could have shouted. Although all the aspects of the photo added up to create something stronger and more meaningful than the preliminary documentary shot.

There’s another photo I’d like to share as well. That photo is from a few hours later as a light bad weather began. Here, I wanted to highlight the environment around the crocodile: often the mangroves in the back, and additionally my favorite, the raindrops falling.

American Crocodile in the Florida Everglades with raindrops good composition wildlife photography
DC-G9 + OLYMPUS M. 60mm F2. 8 Macro @ 60mm, ISO 400, 1/1300, f/2. 8

In this case,   I went on advantage of being able to move together shore freely by placement myself in line with the crocodile. Using this method, the entire outline of the alligator would be in focus, giving it stand out. I got my own camera as low to the waters as possible to include as much background and foreground as possible. Again, typically the croc was moving, so that i had to act quickly to perfect this particular composition before it modified away into deeper waters.

I put to use my widest aperture to ensure the in-focus raindrops plus crocodile would pop. Also i boosted the ISO somewhat so I could use a fast shutter speed of 1/1300 together with completely freeze the raindrops. Finally, the lighting : though still overcast – was directional enough to highlight the crocodile and liquid droplets against the dark history. In short, I knew exactly why I had been taking the shot like this, as well as that’s what helps this succeed.


The crocodiles were amazing when I was in the Everglades, but some factors made taking photographs difficult. I was photographing dark brown reptiles in brown normal water; the light was basic and also overcast; I could only action freely along the limited shoreline.

Part of the entertaining of wildlife photography is normally working with challenges like this and also adapting to your surroundings. I found of which asking myself those 4 questions was a big help within taking better compositions right here, and allowing me to come back home with images that will make me happy.   Hopefully the tips in this article will help you likewise in your wildlife photography, regardless of what setting and subject you can find yourself photographing.

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