Nature photographer Daniel Walter Hill provides tips for capturing wildlife photos for new enthusiasts.
LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM, March 28, 2022 — Nature photographer Daniel Hill developed his interest in wildlife through repeat childhood trips to national parks on the east coast of the United States. A photography enthusiast from a young age, Hill quickly combined his two passions and continued his travels through America’s national parks with a camera in hand.
Hill realizes getting started can seem overwhelming for new photographers, but he stresses it does not need to be. The following tips are designed to help the beginner start small and then expand as time, comfort and skill grow.
Daniel Walter Hill recommends photographers start local
Exploring wildlife means meeting animals where they are and on their schedule. Early morning light and early evening light are coveted by photographers as the “golden hour” because shadows are at a minimum and photographs have a lovely temperature range and even illumination.
To maximize this as a new photographer, find local places where it is possible to capture images of wildlife. The backyard, when applicable, is a great start for photos of birds, insects and even the occasional wild animal like an opossum, fox or raccoon. Daniel Hill advises subjects are everywhere when you start looking, and local projects provide the opportunity to refine basics and get a feel for your favorite techniques, lighting profiles and more.
Good wildlife photography requires becoming comfortable with nature and letting it embrace the presence of a human. Be prepared to sit and observe with equipment at the ready. Observe birdlife, reptiles and insects and watch for movement patterns to help establish when to capture a specific image. Sometimes the perfect shot pops up spontaneously – truly being in the right place at the right time – but Daniel Hill advises many are the result of patience.
Study the subjects
Prep work is an essential part of any photo shoot. Before embarking on an excursion to photograph nature, learn about the wildlife. For example, before visiting a national park, identify the animals known to frequent the park. Read about their grazing habits, camouflage and behaviors. Daniel Walter Hill says it’s important to learn how to spot any signs of irritation and aggression to protect both yourself fand the animal.
Wildlife photographers need to respect their subjects and avoid interfering with daily routines. When possible, start with an experienced photographer to observe safe movement and best practices.
Dramatic pictures of large mammals and massive birds are often the images most associated with wildlife and nature photography, but there are opportunities for dramatic images on a smaller scale. Poised insects, agile frogs and quaint small mammals like mice and rabbits can make excellent subjects for the photographer prepared to seek out unique opportunities.
Invest in the right equipment and education
Beyond the basic investments of any photography hobby, Daniel Hill advises the outdoor photographer needs to look for a weather-sealed camera to ensure longevity and top performance in a variety of harsh environments. Beyond this initial spend, look at investing in lenses as needed instead of all at one time.
Telephoto lenses are used for long-distance shots, and an 18mm to 300mm makes a solid initial investment. As time goes by, more specialty options may be desired. A tripod for stabilization is also key for long-distance photos, and lenses with optical stabilization are great for impromptu photos while hiking or exploring. On the opposite end, detailed insect and plant life photos require a macro lens.
Learning all the adjustments on the camera is a less negotiable necessity for the outdoor photographer. From capturing tiny insects, running animals or soaring birds, the ability to adjust shutter speed, aperture and ISO on the fly will make the difference between an acceptable nature photo and a picture that tells a story.
For the individual and camera, Daniel Walter Hill states essential equipment includes rain protection gear for both, including hats and rain coverings. A non-descript natural-color backpack that blends in with your environment is also required for efficiently transporting gear. Make sure all elements are easily secured to avoid rattling and clanging that would disturb potential subjects.