Monday, 22 December 2014

Tom Langlands - Getting into Their World (Part 2)

In the first part of this series of blogs about photographing wildlife I wrote about the importance of getting to the same eye level as your subject. This will immediately make the viewer feel that they now ‘occupy the same space’ as your subject. At this point you will have engaged the viewer. How do you then build on that engagement and draw the viewer further into the image? A big part of the answer to that question has to do with how you crop the image and also being aware of the background.

Fill the frame with your subject. Either get in close at the time of taking the shot or crop in tight afterwards. Sometimes the latter is the best approach especially where birds are concerned. If you zoom in too tight on a bird at the time of the initial shot you will have a problem if the bird suddenly spreads its wings and you find the wingtips missing in the final shot.

The point of getting in close is it removes superfluous clutter or unnecessary open space in an image and helps focus attention on your subject. Combine this with a shallow depth of field to throw the foreground and background out of focus and the viewer has little option but to be drawn into the main subject matter which fills the frame and is also the only sharp part of the overall image.

Working with aperture priority and fully exploiting depth of field are key to good wildlife photography. I spend as much time watching the background in my shots as I do watching the subject. Avoid messy, cluttered backgrounds unless they say something that is essential to the story.

Red Squirrel
Show the wider context
The alternative approach is not to crop in as close and instead show the subject in its wider environment. When adopting this approach the wider context must say something specific about the environment and habitat that is your subject’s world.

Northern Gannets
It should enhance the understanding of how and where your subject lives but not detract from the subject itself.

White-tailed Eagle

Tom Langlands

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