On his most recent trip to the Maasai Mara, Klaus Tiedge took some time to focus on his top 10 Photography Tips for budding wildlife photographers. These are practical pieces of advice that are easy to understand and applicable to many forms of photography. The Maasai Mara is a special place and the perfect playground o share this information.
Tip 1 - Capture the Story
It is so very important to document the story a picture. What happened before, during and after the picture was taken? Get used to writing it down so that you can share this information when you publish your work. You will be surprised how quickly you can forget small details that tell an amazing story and add value to your images.
Perhaps there was a specific reason for arriving at this location. Consider the back story to this moment as well as the situation unfolding as the scene is taking place. Maybe there is a smell in the air or sound coming from the distance? Just quickly write down the basics in a little photo journal. In years to come you will understand the value of this information. Every image has a great story and your audience will appreciate knowing these small details when viewing your artwork.
This can also be for you and your personal journey. A great thing about getting into the habit of documenting your experience is that you get a more fulfilled experience. In the moment your senses are heightened and in-tune with your surroundings.
If you are able you can even try document what you are experiencing on camera? Video Blogs are a great way to keep your audience engaged and entertained.
Tip 2 - Practice Patience
You need to get comfortable with the idea of waiting, a lot. Many people think its easy to just hang around and wait for a photo, but in reality it’s hard to work with wild animals animals. They like to sleep, hide and just generally be difficult.
A great moment sometimes only lasts an instant so you need to be in a constant stand-by mode; ready for action. You can’t entirely relax or snooze. To help keep you going make sure you have snacks and drinks. Practice patience as much as you can, it always pay off in wildlife photography.
Tip 3 - Respect the Animals
Sometimes the animals are trying to hunt and a car will get in the way ruining the predators opportunity to nourish itself. Fast movements & noise both distracts the hunters as well as alerts the prey.
Be quiet. Be still. You are in the their world now. Being respectful towards our fellow beasts is not only to ensure a great natural picture, but also common courtesy to the animals and fellow observers. Many people shout and clap to get the animals attention. Avoid this as you are interfering with the course of nature. We must focus on positioning ourselves ahead of time and then implementing patience to secure a great shot.
Tip 4 - Golden Hour
“I love dramatic last-light moments” – Klaus Tiedge
It is common knowledge that the best light is always in the morning and evening. Make sure to head out of your camp early. Preferably even before the sun rises to be on location ahead of the light. This way you can secure a good position as the light comes into its best. Unsurprisingly, the animals are also more active at these dawn & dusk times as they prepare for the events of the looming day or night.
Make sure you know what the gate times are so as not to get trapped in the park late. You could get a hefty fine. Sometimes we get special permission to stay until after dark. make sure to enquire with the lodge or park you are visiting ahead of the time. The last thing you want to is have waited for the perfect shot and then forced to leave on account of a closing gate.
Tip 5 - Double back up
one goes here
Hard drives are temperamental at the best of times. When you are out in nature it’s not a matter of if something goes wrong, but rather when. Make sure to bring a second hard drive to back up everything twice. Then it is also important to keep these hard drives apart from each-other for maximum safety. Leave one in your tent during the day and take the other with or leave it with one of the camp managers to avoid taking it on the often bumpy roads.
one goes there
Tip 6 - Shoot for yourself
Don’t forget to enjoy yourself. There can be a lot of pressure to get the shot especially with the small windows of opportunity one is given. Remember that this is something you should be doing for yourself. You are your own boss out there in the bush and take a moment to just realise how privileged you are to be doing this. It will not always work out, but by realising that this is something you are doing for yourself you liberate yourself. Act and shoot from the heart and it will reflect in your work.
Tip 7 - Capture the habitat
Sometimes people put too much focus on just the animal. A great photo must tell a story. With a wildlife portrait the story is conveyed through the body language and emotions of the animal itself. To enhance this story you can add in an element of scenery. The wildlife’s habitat reveals more about where they are and what they are doing.
Habitat inclusion is also a way to add more levels into the picture like great foreground or a deeper background. Experiment with landscape photography techniques to explore improving your Wildlife Photography.
Landscape – with Cheetahs
Tip 8 - Angle to subject
Get a low angle. This is the most important wildlife photography tip if you really want to start getting that professional look. By getting the camera in eye-line with the animals (or below) you eliminate the ground as a background. Low angle always wins.
The high angle has a more amateurish look compared to the low angle. The low angle emphasises the stature of the subject.
Tip 9 - Bean Bags
Bean Bags are more versatile than using a tripod. A tripod can be cumbersome and clunky in a car environment. With sandbags you can jump around and reset the camera angle on any surface or angle quickly easily without having to open clamps, cleats and base plates.
Tip 10 - Don't wait for inspiration
The best way to stay inspired is to keep working. Siting at home, in your tent or at the lodge and waiting for the right conditions or inspiration is not going to cut it.
Go out as often as possible and push yourself to work with what you have. If the weather is bad or the animals are nowhere to be seen you will end up doing other things like macro textures or landscapes. You will learn something from this experience. Practicing in bad situations has thought me some of the greatest photographic lessons. Ultimately you will be in the right head space when an opportunity does come around. Something can at any minute and being there at that moment is the best way to be inspired by yourself.
don’t wait for inspiration – go and find it
Bonus Tip - Get a good guide.
There is a major difference between a regular safari guide & a photographic safari guide. A well connected guide with good contacts, exceptional 4×4 skills and the ability to read the animals behaviour can make or break a wildlife photographer.