My latest project has been to learn a bit about wildlife photography. While much of the basic knowledge and skill that applies to any other photographic endeavour applies to photographing wildlife, there are also specific techniques and considerations that come into play.
My first step towards improving my knowledge and, hopefully, my skill in photographing wildlife was to sign up for the “Introduction to Wildlife Photography” at Metro College in Edmonton. Metro offers a wide array of continuing education courses including quite a few in photography.
The course involved 2 evening classes with a field trip sandwiched in between. The first evening would be the theory involved in photographing wildlife. The field trip would be a chance to put some of that theory into practice. On the final evening we would have a chance to critique each other’s photos that were taken on the field trip.
I arrived a bit early on the first evening in order to secure a parking space somewhat close to the building. On entering the classroom I met the instructor, Jim Brohman. Before long the other 4 students arrived and the class got underway.
I found Jim both knowledgeable and enthusiastic about the subject. Using photos that he had taken to illustrate his points, Jim led us through the basic techniques involved in taking quality photos of wildlife. I learned there were a number of key considerations. Certainly the most basic are your camera settings. In particular, you need to use much higher speeds than you would on, say, landscape photography, especially when photographing birds and other fast moving critters. Also, your choice of depth of field will dictate whether you show the animal in isolation with a blurred background or you show a lot of its habitat. Both ends of the spectrum can give spectacular photos. Neither one is more correct, you just get different types of photos.
Jim led us through other considerations, such as getting down to eye level, using a tripod, etc. In the final analysis though, once you have all the technical and practical components taken care of, a huge part simply relies on luck.
Our ultimate destination for our field trip on the Saturday was Ellis Bird Farm. Along the way we made several stops at ponds that Jim was familiar with and had lots of bird activity.
I was fortunate to ride with Jim, along with two fellow students, on our outing. I learned a bunch more as we drove along.
Ellis Bird Farm is a great place to visit even if you don’t take photographs. You will see an abundance of birds as you stroll through the gardens and along the walking trails. And a visit to the tea house for lunch is a great way to top off your visit. While we were enjoying our lunch, hummingbirds and goldfinches were feeding right outside the window.
Our Saturday turned out to be a great trip with lots of photos taken. In preparation for our final class each of us were asked to select 10 of our best photos to present in class.
The final class was a great opportunity to view each other’s photos and have a nice relaxed discussion about them. It was a great follow up to our field trip and a further learning opportunity.
The course was a great starting point. Of course, now the challenge is to get out there and practice what I learned.
I have managed to get out once so far, with more outings planned. Last Thursday I ventured north and west of St. Albert and found some interesting ponds that are worth return visits. Over the next few weeks I plan to visit Elk Island National Park, Beaverhill Lake, and various other sites along with, perhaps, a return visit to Ellis Bird Farm. Watch for further posts as my adventure continues!