Thursday, January 8, 2009

Wildlife - Landscape Photography

I like Wildlife Photography, and I like Landscape Photography too. Often I shoot one or the other. And if I were to guess which lens was for which, it would be the long telephoto for wildlife, and a wide angle lens for the landscape. That approach is normal, wildlife is often far away, and for landscapes you want to get a wide angle, or larger scene, in the frame.

One thing I love in photos is wildlife where you get a real sense for their habitat.

Here's an image I haven't posted before.
Eagle Scene

Read on for more.

So, it hit me while reading National Geographic, almost all of the images are not super-telephoto images! They're probably mostly under 200mm's if I had to guess, and many many are actually wide angles. And the photos work quite well at portraying both the wildlife and the habitat. That's the take away here, animal photos where you can see their habitat, and thus envision a little more of what it means to BE the animal are better!

One of my favorite images I think fits this profile. (I've posted it a lot, I hope you're not sick of it yet.)
Great (Falls) Blue Heron

Back to eagles. It's somewhat easy to see eagles from a good distance, they've made such a great come back. In the Maryland / Virginia / Delaware area there's probably more than a couple of thousand resident bald eagles. During Fall when eagles from the north come south, places like the Susquehanna River have hundreds of eagle gathered in one place. Getting closer shots than usual is quite possible and will often be very good. But the shots are often from below (with blue sky as the background if you're lucky) or a perched eagle in a tree.

Inbound Eagle @ Conowingo Dam Maryland (+Paparazzi)

The above photo might yield some context, it is landing above the photographer so it wasn't a stalked bird and is acting own it's own most likely (ie not responding to a photographer chasing it) but it could be anywhere!

Here's a closeup (with crop), but again it is just a closeup, it doesn't speak to where he is (habitat):
Early Bird - Juv. Bald Eagle @ Conowingo Dam, Maryland (+ full bird photo)

Here are images that are wildlife but which also speak to the animals habitat some too...

V is for Victory
An eagle has caught a fish and landed on a rock in the river and you can see the some background.

Pelicans at Sunrise
This one is like a landscape OF pelicans...

A quick contrast and here's an image that has some things going for it, but the background is just a blue sky:
BALD EAGLE vs osprey (3 pix)

And here's where I was going with this post.

When wildlife seems out of reach, too far away to get the details of the subject that make it seem amazing (like a closeup eagle), take photos anyway. Even back off the zoom a little to get more of the environment, the landscape.


Eagle's Feast
I wish I could have filled my frame with the eagles. But they were far away. I took some shots, and I think the above image manages to work pretty well. You can see the eagles and the geese in the background, and maybe you can see the goose the middle eagle has. The eagles aren't just on the ice. And they aren't alone, and if you could see the goose the eagles has you can realize that the eagles are eating a goose and the other geese are still nearby and might be watching.

My ideal composition for a wildlife image would be one that would work as a landscape image on its own, which contains an animal (or animals) that improves the image by an order of magnitude...

Sometimes cropping can be used to remove the context, which I do often for zoo images so the zoo isn't a prominent component, and I consider that a good thing.

For wildlife images I'm trying to learn to shoot more images that aren't the closest encounter, which show the habitat. I still strive to be as close as possible without impacting an animal or changing the encounter, but I try to keep myself open to realizing that the lens I have will never be long enough for all encounters and that showing the surroundings (and what was in the viewfinder when the shutter was pressed too) is a good goal.

The next time you read a National Geographic magazine find an animal image you like and ask yourself if it is an out of context animal or if it is a wider angle image WITH an animal and a HABITAT.....

GBH's @ Blackwater NWR, MD




Joe (vidular) said...

Interesting distinction, is the photo primarily of the animal or the context. In my mind the context photo is more likely to "tell a story" and therefore can be entertaining to some viewers as they complete the story in their minds. However I enjoy both approaches.

Beautiful photography, thanks for posting your work!