Updated: Aug 23, 2019
the budding photographer Since I was a little kid, I’ve loved the camera. I remember my first mik-en-druk fondly & I’m pretty sure it’s still somewhere in my old room at my parents’ house collecting dust. I bet if I cleaned it up & popped some film in it’d still work! It was when our family went on safaris in my dad’s ancient defender together that my creativity began to flourish.
I remember my dad laughing at me for attempting to get a close up of a rhino by pushing the camera lens up against the viewfinder on his binoculars.
As time went by I started to invest more effort into my “hobby” & I started to really plan & think through the shots in depth. If I look back now, I’ve come a long way since the early days & its testament to the fact that practice makes perfect. I’m looking to forward to improving my art even more now that I have a bit more time on my hands to do so. The wonderful thing about Barking Wild is we can operate from any location!
getting the shot It’s not just about framing & focus. A crisp, clear shot is great but to take it to the next level, you need to dig deep. Let’s use wildlife as a subject for the purpose of this post – finding the animals is just a small part of the process. Once you’ve found your subject, have a look at the direction of the lighting. If the sun is behind the subject, you’re going to have a silhouetted shot & details like their face or markings won’t show up clearly but in the bright light of sunrise or warm light of sunset it would look amazing. Ideally, you want the light to come from behind you, shining fully on the subject, in order to pick up on details like eye colour, whiskers etc.
I make great efforts not to include any other vehicles in my shots which also helps create the illusion that we’re the only ones there – although more often than not, we actually are.
Early mornings are my favourite time for wildlife as the colours & surroundings really pop. Birds are amazing subjects in this lighting especially the bright varieties like the Green Pigeon.
make love to the camera Emotion is the key to everything – you need to capture the subject’s frame of mind & mood. This is easy to do with an action shot but when your subject is just basking in the sun it’s a bit trickier. My top tip in these common scenarios is to wait for them to notice you & make eye contact.
When a big cat looks directly into your lens, that cold stare can invoke fear, excitement & a primal need to flee: capturing that essence into your shot is magical.
what’s your angle? The downside to guided game viewing in a game viewer or 4x4 truck is the high vantage point which results more often than not in unattractive aerial views framed by tarmac when the animals are next to the vehicle. If you have the means & the patience, head out in your own car.
Game rangers have no more advantage than you do in finding the animals & it’s far more gratifying to find a sighting yourself.
By being in your own space you can manoeuvre to better vantage points, spend as much time as you like with the subject & visit unique spots like Biyamiti Wehr in the Kruger National Park. This is one of our favourite spots as the animals are positioned slightly higher than your vehicle & within close proximity, creating an illusion that you’re right there on the ground in front of them. Always be respectful of their space, though, if they’re uncomfortable with your presence move on.
go outside & play The best way to improve & find your niche space is to go out there & experiment with your camera. You don’t have to have the most expensive camera on the market or be shooting big cats or race cars to get good shots. Potter around the garden for great macro shots of insects & flowers or put some fruit out for the birds at your house - you’d be amazed what comes through & poses for you.
The best subjects to shoot are those that you love because your passion comes through in those photographs & gives them the edge
Chantelle Browne is an avid wildlife enthusiast & passionate photographer who recently infected her father with the photo bug. Some of his shots are featured in the memories gallery & he is a serious budding talent. The picture with the rhino actually came out OK but it’s still a running joke in the family.