One of the things that I like best about photography is the challenge inherent in getting the shot and each genre provides a unique challenge that we, as the photographer, have to figure out how to take on and surmount to obtain success with our shot. Wildlife photography, in particular, has a wide variety of challenges, including getting an action shot of the animal being photographed that is pleasing to the viewer, a sharp image (especially the animal’s eye), in the correct light to show off the animal, and with a subject that fills the frame with a background that compliments and highlights the animal, in addition to struggling with the weather and the equipment required. Very little of what we experience with wildlife photography can be controlled, outside of our camera settings and equipment, and much of our success is based on how quickly we can react to the situation we find ourselves in, both our reaction to the animal and its environment (including navigating in a large group of photographers who all also want the same shot) and our reaction to handling our gear; camera, lens, and at times a tripod. I was reminded recently how confusing all this can be to someone new to wildlife photography as a friend, inexperienced in wildlife photography, and I traveled to Bosque del Apache in early December to photograph birds, in particular to photograph Sandhill Cranes. Added to the complexity of wildlife photography is the discussion regarding what steps to take in processing the image and what the perceived impact is on the image, i.e., that seemingly common thought that we cannot change a wildlife image in almost any way at all.
I photograph to create what I hope is art, of course sometimes I may not exactly get this but I continue to try. I am not a journalist or a documentary photographer so I have no problem with processing an image to my requirements and to meet my goals. To do this, I shoot in RAW, use Lightroom, Photoshop, Topaz DeNoise and other software as needed. I often enlarge wildlife images using the Transform tool in LrC, I take out noise in Topaz, I remove debris and general junk in PS. I’m only concerned with the end result of the image and how I might create a more beautiful shot that conveys the beauty and essence of the animal and scene. I use the histogram as a tonal guide once I begin processing the image and work from within LrC using plug-ins. I love the magic of digital processing and I don’t use the film days as a comparison to what I can or cannot do with digital images. I don’t add any items to the image as I have no need for that, but I have played with composite images for fun.
Walking Through Pond, Nikon D850, Nikon 500PF, 1/3200, f/5.6, ISO 800. I generally look for some type of animal action, no matter how small it might be. I also look to where the best light is and then look for the best subject. This image was on the dark side, note the low ISO, which was rectified by pulling up the Whites slider until it touched the right side of the histogram, and then processed to highlight the bird’s head and its fuzzy feathers. I liked this shot because it shows the bird lifting a muddy leg as it walks through its habitat. I used Photoshop to soften the sticks coming up from the water.
Click for an enlargement
To read the rest of the article, please log in. This article is available to all Silver, Gold and Platinum Nikonians members. If you are not registered yet, please do so. To discover the world of Nikonians and the advantages of being a registered member, take our short discovery tour.
More articles that might interest you