I loved my first zoom lens so much, I would have kept it around my neck and under my pillow 24/7 were I not worried about the integrity of the front element … and my neck. I suspect that a lot of wildlife watchers like myself feel profoundly altered after shooting through their first tele lens. The reach of a 200mm, 400mm or 600mm creates intimacy in a way that actually changes your relationship to the animals you are photographing. You get to know them — the way they blink and yawn and ruffle their hair. And then you live with them as you post-process your way through the jpegs or RAW files, noting every nuance of plumage and claw.
So, a telephoto enables my connection to wildlife. But, I also find it too easy to get stuck in the tight framing of 3×2 or 4×3 closeups, forgetting to use the wide end of my tele — or even a wide angle — when photographing animals. I was thinking about this very thing when I came upon a Moose Peterson blog post from earlier this year: Do You Need to Fill the Frame?. He writes:
“When you fill the frame with the head of a critter, the rest of the image is taken care of because, there is no room for any other element. There is nothing that can take the mind’s eye from the subject. When the subject doesn’t fill the frame and in this example of a Great Egret, doesn’t even come close, making sure you see that subject and then move the eye around the frame and back to the subject I think is a gargantuan hurdle to the great image.”
Take a look at the Great Egret image he references in the above quote. I love wide, atmospheric shots of wild animals and find them (as his comment suggests) difficult to execute in a way that makes them stand out. The old adage is to shoot wide, medium then closeup for full coverage. I usually start in the opposite direction, grabbing some closeups, then going wider if the shot is still there at that point.
In many cases, a wide angle lens isn’t practical for me, unless the animals are so tame I can frame them as foreground without bothering them. I’ve done that with pelicans habituated to fishing piers, pigeons, and Seattle’s friendly gulls.
Right now, I don’t have a blind, a ghillie suit, nor a long cable release setup that allows for that stealth, wide photography. But what I often do have is plenty of distance from my subjects, where I can shoot them at the wide end of my telephoto. Sometimes, as in the case of this eagle image, the animals are so far afield, I can get a wide shot near the far reach of my lens. I like this shot because it shows the bucolic setting in which these juvenile Bald Eagles are bathing in a flooded field.
Here are a few others I’ve taken in the past year, either because I wanted to show the context and environment — or because I was looking for a creative way to either shoot a distant animal, or back off from a closeup. If you have some wide-shot favorites of wild animals, please feel free to post a link in the comments below. I’d love to explore other photographers’ inspirations and motivations for going wide with wildlife shots.
These pigeons roost on the bridge that takes me from my apartment to downtown Seattle. I often walk under their perches, and on this evening, the confluence of pigeons, moon and plan was difficult to resist from a photographic standpoint. Shot with a point-and-shoot.
I have a few closeups of this same Humpback whale and fluke in the Strait of Juan de Fuca (Washington), but in this case, I loved the misty backdrop of a Northwest fall coming on.
Every night, flocks of hundreds of crows bath and roost in various parts of Seattle. This particular flock makes a regular stop at Union Bay Natural Area (the former Montlake Fill). I was going for a shot that would show what it’s like to see the birds fly from tree to tree until they finally launch en masse to their northern roost. I’m still working on this concept and project.
This cormorant was silhouetted against a Vancouver sunset as we walked the Seawall at Stanley Park. The cormorant had the appearance of a welcoming committee for the ship in the distance.
I called this one “The Waiting is the Hardest Part.” The image shows one salmon trying in vain to breach the barrier to the river above, while others below either try the jump themselves, or redirect to the fish ladder opening (to the right of this shot).
The city and Port of Tacoma, south of Seattle, is implementing some habitat restoration projects. But, this image shows the challenges inherent in that task. A row of cormorants preens as a barge stacked with crushed automobiles, enters the port, heading toward a scrap metal yard.
None of my closeups of this Red-tailed Hawk were as interesting as shots of the tree in which he (or she) was perched.
I shot this just the other day with a point-and-shoot. I noticed an occasional flight was passing behind this huge roost of pigeons. I like the contrast of a different kind of big, mechanical bird, approaching the pigeon roost. Shot in Georgetown, just south of Seattle.
There were 15+ Double-crested Cormorants diving in and out of the foamy swill, just below the Ballard Locks spillway. Each time a cormorant surfaced, it looked like a periscope in a big bubble bath, and that’s the capture I was going for here.
0 :: CLICK if you liked this post, most of it, or at least 7.27% of it