In the last post, I put in a lot of technical stuff that you need to know a bit about to get the photos you want. I don't like to stay bogged down with all that technical jargon, so I will continue on with how to get a great picture and have fun doing it.
We don't normally have to go very far to find interesting subjects in the neighborhood. I have sat in the comfort of my home and taken great photos of birds around the feeders. I do recommend that you put up some natural looking perches for them to sit on. The perch is often what makes a so so picture of a bird into a great photo. A good perch can be something like your used Christmas tree, a stump or a dead tree snag with a natural looking back ground that can be focused out in your camera settings. I don't particularly care for a bird feeder as the backdrop, unless you are selling bird feeders.
Look for some scenery in your area also. Don't get lulled by complacency into thinking that nobody wants to see any thing around here, just because you are used to it. There is beauty wherever we live. I can get used to seeing the boats in the harbor and walk right past them without a second look, but someone from a different town or province will be enamoured by this sight. One advantage you have to your own neighborhood is that you are there in all different kinds of weather and light conditions. If you see a great sunset coming, it just takes a minute to get to the marina for a very interesting photo opportunity.Get to know the area you are in so you can find the best viewpoints. Once you have scouted a scene, you will be able to get there quickly when storms or light conditions are changing.
It took me about 2 hours to get this Great Blue Heron to trust me enough that it would carry on fishing while I crept close enough to get a decent picture. His body language warned me every time it seemed to get nervous and when it finally got comfortable enough that I could creep closer. This heron has caught a gunnell for supper.
Scouting wildlife is also essential so you begin to see their patterns and get to understand their body language. Body language of animals is a universal language that we all have the ability to recognize with practice. You can learn by watching you own dog or cat. Watch for the subtle differences in posture as you meet another dog while you are walking your own. Most wildlife act very similar to our own domesticated pets. Body language is the universal, inter-species lingo that announces if you are to become prey, mated, or if you are within someones safety zone. With wildlife photography, I believe it is unethical to enter into that "personal space zone" that we all feel comfortable with. This is the zone where we figure we can run away from the danger encroaching upon us. If you get much closer we may have to fight to protect ourselves or our families. Over time, certain critters will allow you closer than others and we each have our own comfort space requirements.
Use camera gear that is appropriate for the kind of shooting you want to do. If you want to get a full frame photo of a friendly dog, you don't need as large a lens as if you want a picture of a wild bear. You might want a long telegraphic lens to photograph a bee hive but a single bee in a flower will require a macro lens. These different equipment requirements also allow you to be comfortable;e with your subject. Not everyone is comfortable having bees humming around your head as you try to picture them with a macro lens.
I would start clicking the shutter as soon as I would see the large transient orca fins periscope out of the water and hope that the whale would swim into my shots. It is too late to wait until you see the whale, then find it in the viewfinder and start shooting.
When you do get an opportunity to get your picture, take lots of photos. Keep that shutter clicking. It is not costing you anything but a bit of time on the computer later. It is very difficult to get just the right expression on a bears face. It is very tough to get all the puppies to look at you at the same time. What does it take sometimes to get everything standing still, facing the same direction with every body's eyes open.
Play with different camera settings if you have the chance. Try opening the aperture to get a different depth of field. Change the shutter speed to try stopping action, or blurring it if you want to emphasize speed. In the foxtail photo you can see the background blurred out by opening the camera aperture to something like f-8
Foxtail is a weed where I come from. It can cause damage to grazing animals digestive tract and plug up radiators on equipment. For a short time of the year it is very beautiful and colorful.
Check the background behind your subject often. Is there a distracting rock or a bright spot? Often you can just move over a few feet to make a much more interesting result. Look around to make sure danger is not encroaching into your own personal safety zone while you are concentrating on your subject. Most of the time your subject will be more aware of their enemies than you will be so pay attention to what they are doing.
Try to get down to the same eye level as your subject. The subject is then on even terms with the viewer of the post making it much more interesting and intimate.
Don't forget to take your eye from the viewfinder. Look around, enjoy the place, the critter, and the overall feel of your surroundings. Get a sense of your emotions and what other people around you are feeling. These senses are what will make your pictures special for you years down the trail. Photo albums are full of memories even if the pictures are not technically correct. Just by opening one of the old albums, I can be transported back years in time to remember great places, adventures and friends. All the photos in this article are taken within 5 minutes of where I have lived.