By Mary Katherine Ray, Chapter Wildlife chair

What to do outside this summer? Take pictures!

With the advent of “super-zoom” cameras, which are small enough to take everywhere, easy to hold and have an astonishing capacity to zoom in on faraway subjects, wildlife photography is within reach of anyone.

Being in nature with a camera enriches the experience. You will find yourself looking for the bird making that noise, and once you take his picture, you’ll have a record to help find out just what bird it was, then you’ll want to know more about him.

Here are some tips for taking wildlife pictures:

  1. Take a lot of pictures. In the digital age, pressing the shutter button costs nothing! Even if you think they are all alike, some will be in focus and some won’t. Some will have a better pose, all in the space of a few seconds. It’s easy to delete the ones that are less than stellar.
  2. Move quietly and patiently. Be respectful of wildlife and don’t get too close. Let the telephoto do that for you.
  3. If your subject will hold still, try a lot of different compositions. Be sure not to put your subject in the very center of the frame. It makes the picture more visually interesting if he is off center and above or below the midline. You can also use a photo-editing program to crop the picture afterwards so the subject is not in the very middle of the frame. If you are close enough to fill the frame, you can think of the eyes as the focal point. Make sure they are not in that bull’s eye center.
  4. Once you get used to using the camera, get off of the automatic settings. You can set the camera manually to better capture extreme light conditions — such as a bright subject against a dark background — that the camera will otherwise overexpose, or for low light or for motion. The faster the shutter speed, the crisper the picture of a moving object.
  5. Learn to use a photo-editing program to adjust the exposure later. Digital photography is very forgiving, and you can make changes back at home! Plus, by editing pictures, you can relive the pleasure of your outing all over again. You might be surprised to see things you didn’t notice while in the field. Just what is that flycatcher eating? Is that kestrel missing a toe?
  6. If you want wildlife pictures, you have to be where wildlife is! Get outside. Early in the day is best, especially when it’s hot later. Open your senses and see what treasures you can find. It might be a charismatic large mammal or it might be a lizard, a bird, a beetle or a butterfly. Let nature surprise you with her gifts.


Wildlife photography: Cherish what we have