Have you ever been so excited about photographing wildlife you just can’t stop hitting the shutter button? Every time I step off the plane in Africa I am the worst offender…one distant zebra requires at least 200 images until I can settle down. And then I start to really look hard at the scene, and realize I can do better. First attach a longer lens so the zebra doesn’t look like a dust spot in the frame. Next wait for an interesting gesture or behavior that will add interest to the image. And also just as important is considering the background. Is it good, or do I need to change positions to make it better?
Recently Cree and I were shooting on a lake in Alaska at midnight, and had a great encounter with grebes and a loon. The loon just swam right up to our canoe and seemed happy to have some company. I have to say having the loon call while drifting in the midnight sun in Alaska was a memorable moment. Cree was in the bow photographing while I paddled to get in position. We were both super excited, we love bird photography, and she was blazing away.
Here is the first image. Yep, it is okay, but could be a lot better. That initial excitement always keeps the shutter blazing away. But then we started looking hard at the water, knowing the reflected quality would be critical to a strong image. There are many situations a photographer encounters while photographing on the water…animals, boats, shoreline. But how often do we really look at the water and sky conditions to find the best quality? Your angle to the sun will radically change what the water quality is.
After paddling to a different angle, Cree found this shot. Now the water has more color and creates a better background for the shot. The loon didn’t seem to care where we were, he just floated near our boat. Cree was using a D850 with the 500mm F5.6 PF lens, an incredible handherd combo for wildlife.
But then we saw if we changed positions again, we could line the loon up against some incredible reflections and color. Here is the final shot. It also helped the wind settled down for better reflections. So the next time you are photographing on the water, take a close look and see what angle is best for the background and water reflection. Also consider a polarizer filter to reduce glare. And then just keep hitting the shutter button…