Wildlife Photography Courses – Into The Wild With Knowledge In Your Arsenal!

Wildlife photography attracts many people, primarily due to the attraction to wildlife and for those who want to pursue a career as a wildlife photographer – courses are the best choice to grasp some knowledge.

Wildlife photography uses lenses, filters and tools that are very different from an advertising or fashion photography assignment. You need to learn a lot about animal behavior and how to deal with them before making it a serious profession.

Shooting wildlife usually cover topics such as:

Where to Begin– Have you ever thought Amazon forest is the best place to start your career as a wildlife photographer? If you head to the Amazons expecting some great photos, you will be disappointed because in dense tropical forests, it is very hard to spot animals or birds as you can do in a savannah. A national park close to your home is the best place to begin photography. With a good course, you will learn hotspots in your location where you can click great pictures.

Techniques – Camouflages are widely on your equipment and clothing to hide your presence from wildlife but this is just one technique. Wildlife photographers also use foods and other items to attract animals and birds. You usually use faster shutter speeds and higher ASA settings to capture wildlife, and a good course will cover in detail about aperture and shutter settings.

Learn About Lenses– Arguably, a large range of telephoto lenses are used in wildlife photography. Each manufacturer will have multiple models with same focal length but the results and features for each lens vary. Professional help is a must for every wildlife photography student to pick the right photography lens.

Animal Psychology– A wildlife photographer who wants to shoot pictures of a Cheetah or a Bengal Tiger spends most of his/her time on learning about the particular animal’s behavior because spotting the animal and being safe in the animal’s presence is more important. When you head to the wilderness, there will be other animals, snakes and venomous insects that you will come in contact with so you can’t limit your knowledge to one animal but must expand to every possible animal and plant that you will find. This is why professional lessons are required to empower yourself with sufficient knowledge.

Surviving In The Wild– There are many newcomers who are attracted to wildlife photography due to the fancy side it seems to show. However, wilderness survival and photography are not that easy without adequate knowledge and tools to survive. With professional courses, you will learn how to survive in the wild, stay for days or even weeks to capture the subject you intend to etc. These courses also cover information about the necessary tools and equipment that a wildlife photographer must carry.

The best ways to enhance your wildlife photography skills is joining for some of the best courses around and practice what you learn.

Photography – The Lens

Photography is all about capturing light on a photographic emulsion or electronic sensor. And as such the lens, film or sensor are the most important components affecting image quality. Essentially, the camera itself is just a light-tight box with a shutter!

You’ve seen the wonderful pictures from the rovers sent by NASA to Mars. All detailed and colourful. You might think that they’re from some huge megapixel space-age techno-beast and you’d be surprised to hear that the sensor is a paltry 1 megapixel. Bigger pixels mean less noise which is always a good thing, but where NASA put all its money was into a very high quality lens. The results show it was worth it!

A camera that allows you to change the lens will obviously give you the greatest flexibility to pick the appropriate lens for the situation. An ideal camera like this is the SLR. You can choose from super wideangle to super telephoto. Macro for close ups. Bellows for even closer close up. Attach it to a microscope. Attach it to a telescope.

PRIMES VS ZOOMS

Prime (fixed) focals have the advantage of being fast (bright) and very high quality by virtue of the fact that they can be designed just for that focal length. A zoom lens allows a choice from a continuous range of focal lengths. They are useful where you require a range of focal lengths but want the convenience of a single lens, whether for weight (only one lens), always being ready to take the picture or shooting in a dusty environment and you want to keep debris entering the camera to a minimum (you also need to think about how to change films).

This all sounds great but there are drawbacks. Zooms are slower than primes (smaller minimum aperture) and can thus make hand holding and focusing (whether manual or auto) problematic. Also due to their complexity zoom lenses suffer from more abberations than primes. Lenses from the major camera makers tend to be very good. Third party zooms vary considerably. Like everything else, you tend to get what you pay for.

Zooming is more than just getting closer. It alters the focal length and affects the perspective and depth of field of the picture. Consider whether you should zoom in and use a longer focal length, or get closer and use a shorter focal length?

FOCAL LENGTHS

Standard Lenses (~50mm)

A standard lens is the usual lens supplied with an SLR. They are good general purpose lenses having an angle of view close to the human eye. They are sharp, compact and lightweight.

Small “standard” zooms have a range of typically 35-70mm (2x), 28-85mm (3x) or 24-105mm (4x). These zooms often replace the 50mm lens.

A typical compact has a zoom lens with a focal range of 35-100mm.

Wideangle Lenses (135mm)

Used for sports, nature or other types of documentary style photography that requires you to be close to the action but cannot be close physically be it dangerous or timid. Like portrait lenses they are great for picking out the subject from the background.

OTHER SPECIAL LENSES

Macro

Macro lenses can focus very close allowing real size, 1:1 image ratios, ie an object 10mm in size will appear 10mm on the 35mm frame. Excellent for nice close ups of insects or flowers.

Fisheye Lenses

Distort the perspective to create a circular “fisheye” 180° image. A very specialised lens. Picking the correct subject is necessary but when you do can produce some memorable images. Focal lengths vary, 7~16mm.

Super Wideangle Lenses (300mm)

Longer telephotos and an eye-watering price tag to match. Can be heavy due to the amount of glass they contain. Often they have a tripod mount on the lens. You will need to tripod mount to reduce camera shake and weight of lens (unless you’re after a work out!) Favoured by tabloid journalist when spying on celebrities!

OTHER TERMS

Fast Lenses

A fast lens is one that has a large minimum aperture and is often a good thing. The minimum aperture might be f/1.4 or f/2.8 or whatever is appropriate for the lens compared to other lenses of the same focal length. Obviously the larger minimum aperture requires larger glass elements and is consequently heavier and maybe bulkier than a lens one or two slops slower. They are often higher quality as a side-effect of the lens maker justifing the extra expense.

Mirror or Reflex Lenses

It is possible to make lenses using mirrors to fold and focus the light rather than glass and are also known as catadioptric lenses. Many telescopes are like this. The advantages of this type of lens are compactness and reduced weight. Long glass telephotos are big and heavy beasts. The reflex equivalent is compact and lighter making hand holding possible. Like big telephotos, they usually have built-in rear-mounted filters. Catadioptrics also produce characteristic doughnut shaped out-of-focus highlights, or bokeh, which can be quite pleasing.

Apochromatic Lenses

An apochromatic lens is designed to focus three wavelengths of light, corresponding to the colours red, green and blue, onto the film plane. This reduces chromatic abberations, or the phenomenon of different wavelengths being focused at different distances or different point of the film plane. Chromatic abberation appears as coloured fringing around high contrasts objects typically a red fringe on one side and a purple fringe on the other. Normal lenses are called achromatic and they are designed to focus two wavelengths (red and blue) onto the film place and the designer assumes that everything between will be similarly focused. Apocromatic lenses are also designed to focus two wavelengths at the edges to reduce spherical abberations. Spherical aberrations show up as unfocused portions of the frame usually at the edges and at larger apertures. To achieve these feats some or all of the optics in an apochromatic lens are made from special (expensive) glass. Apochromitic lenses can be expensive!

SPECIALISED LENSES

Varisoft Lenses

Allows the photographer to adjust the amount of spherical aberration to create a distinctive soft focus effect. The lens has a control ring to set the amount of softness. Perfect for portraits. Creates more reproducible results than the alternative, but much cheaper, version of smearing vaseline on a skylight filter.

Shift Lenses

With a wideangle lens the exaggerated perspective can make tall buildings look like they are curving inward (or outward) if the camera is tilting slightly upward (or downward). Having the camera perfectly vertical (specifically parallel to the buildings) fixes the
distortion but might not be the picture you are after. The shift lens allow the photographer to correct the distortion so that the buildings are straight again. Great for architectural photography and for panoramic shots intended to be stitched together.

LENS CARE

Don’t use tissue to clean your favourite camera lens as it only redistributes the oily dirt and leaves tiny scratches. Use a blower brush, cleaning fluid and a lint free cloth.

HAND HELD PHOTOS

You might ask is: what is the slowest shutter speed I can use and still hand hold and get acceptable results? If you’ve ever used a telephoto before, you’ll know that the longer the focal length the more difficult it is to hold the camera steady. That is why binoculars with ridiculous magnifications are impossible to use hand held.

A reasonable rule-of-thumb seems to be you can allow the shutter speed to drop to the inverse of the focal length. So a 200mm lens would be 1/200″ and a 28mm lens would be 1/30″. Naturally, all this depends on your own steadiness.

Of course, nowadays, electronics takes all the fun out of trying to hold the camera steady after a night on the pop. Anti-shake sensors and CCD scanning tricks can easily cope with moderate shaking and they seem to work well.

NOTES FOR DIGITAL CAMERAS

Comparison with 35mm

The sensor in a digital camera (CCD, CMOS etc) can vary in size. As new technology arrives they can get smaller or bigger and so the focal lengths of the lens can be difficult to relate to. To solve this the focal length is often specified as a 35mm equivalent, This is as if the sensor was scaled up to 35mm frame size (36x24mm) and focal length accordingly.

Digital Zoom

The most useless and over-marketed feature of a digital camera. I mean, what were they thinking? Most places quite wisely tell you to ignore the digital zoom. It is nothing more than cropping and enlarging a portion of the image with a resultant loss of resolution. It does not (and cannot) alter the focal length. Switch it off and use imaging software on your desktop PC to achieve better results if you need to crop.

Unsure About What Lens to Get for the Nikon D5000? Some Options

If you’ve bought (or are planning to buy) the Nikon D5000, you will love the range of features and quality it delivers. It’s a great camera and it really impressed me when I first tested it, especially considering that it is supposed to be an amateur’s camera.

Is there a lens which best suits the D5000?

You won’t get to exploit your camera’s capabilities unless you use a proper lens. But it can be hard to figure out which lens is right for you. There are just so many options out there.

Before we look at specific options, a note on DX lenses.

The Nikon D5000’s sensor is of the “DX” variety. All this means is that the sensor is smaller than those found in 35 mm film cameras. Why does this matter?

Lenses with “DX” in the their name have been designed and optimised specifically for the smaller, DX sensor.

Traditional lenses (not the DX kind) are designed for a larger, traditional 35mm frame. Even so, you can still use them with the D5000, but since they were built for a larger sensor, you’ll get an automatic “crop factor” because the projected image will exceed the sensor size. This means you will effectively be able to zoom in closer, but the price you pay is that you won’t benefit from the lens’s widest angle. As a rule of thumb, the crop factor is about 1.5, so your non-DX 10-20mm lens will respond like a 15-30mm lens when you use it on the D5000

Which manufacturer?

Nikon’s own lenses are called “Nikkor”. Unless you’re on a tight budget, you should use them. It’s true that you’ll find less costly Nikon-compatible alternatives made by other manufacturers, but they don’t beat the quality you’ll get from a Nikkor lens.

To ensure compatibility with the Nikon D5000, look for AF-S and AF-I type lenses. The trick is to make sure that AF-S or AF-I is written in the name of the lens.

Best lens for the Nikon D5000 – My list

When it comes to lenses, there isn’t a single answer to the “best lens” question. It depends on what you intend to photograph, so here is a list of options tailored to different kinds of photography

A. Street and travel photography

A good travel- and street photography lens needs to be flexible. Speed is of the essence, since you won’t have a lot of time to fiddle with the camera to change lenses, so you’re looking for a lens with a nice zoom:

AF-S DX NIKKOR 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6G VR – conventional wisdom says that “kit” lenses sold with the camera body aren’t necessarily the best, but this D5000 kit lens is surprisingly decent. And it has automatic image stabilisation or “vibration reduction” (VR in Nikon speak) built in.

AF-S DX NIKKOR 18-200mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR II – this is a wonderful traveller’s lens. It has an incredible zoom range that will eliminate the need for changing lenses when you’re doing street photography. As with any zoom lens, the quality when shooting extremely wide or extremely close will never compare to that delivered by a fixed, prime lens, but everything has a price, and in this case it’s the price you pay for being able to use just the one lens and carry around very little gear. And you shouldn’t underestimate the benefit of having a light, flexile setup when taking street photos: Not only will your back be thankful, but you will also be less noticeable and able to take better candid photos if you’re not carrying around a giant bag with loads of lenses and gear.

B. Portraits:

AF-S DX NIKKOR 35mm f/1.8G – This is a fast lens that will enable you to take portraits using available light. The wide maximum aperture also provides a nice shallow depth of field.. And you will be amazed by the quality delivered by this prime lens.

C. Landscapes and cityscapes:

AF-S DX NIKKOR 10-24mm f/3.5-4.5G ED – the big advantage here is the wide-angle zoom, allowing you to capture big scenes.

D. Sports & Wildlife:

AF-S DX NIKKOR 55-300mm f/4.5-5.6G ED VR – use this lens in situations where it is important to get in close without disturbing your subject. the maximum 300mm telephoto zoom, coupled with the anti-blur VR function will help you get tack-sharp images.

These are not the only lenses compatible with the D5000, but I feel they’re the most suitable given the physical dimensions and price of the camera. You can always sell your old lenses on e-Bay and upgrade as you invest in more expensive camera bodies. Use what’s right, for right now!