One of the greatest things about experiencing the outdoors is getting a chance to see animals in their natural habitats. These experiences can be thrilling, but they can also be very dangerous. If you come across an animal in the wild on your Norway cruise, you you may be tempted to capture the moment on your phone or camera. However, if you don't know what you're doing, you can run a serious risk. Here are some tips for taking pictures of wildlife that will prevent you from getting hurt in pursuit of that perfect shot and improve your photography along the way:
The obvious risk when dealing with wild animals is that they might attack you. No matter how benevolent your intentions, there's no way for the animal to know that you don't intend it any harm. That's why it's important to follow these safety guidelines when taking wildlife photography:
- Be patient: When you're taking pictures of wild animals, you have to work on their terms. Do not approach animals, and instead wait for them to come into the shot. Too much movement on your part might make the animals run away - and that's really the best-case scenario. If you scare them, they might attack you.
- Use a long lens: Keeping your distance will not only make animals a lot less likely to attack you, but it will also give you more of a chance to react if they start giving any get-away-from-me warning signs. By using a long lens, you can shoot photography that seems like it was taken from a few feet while staying yards back.
- Avoid baby animals: Even though they're adorable and very photogenic, baby animals are bad news for photographers. Where there are babies, there's also a mother that is ready to kill anything that threatens them. If you come across baby animals while you're out shooting, move away from them as quickly as you can, and don't return.
- Do your research: Learn as much as you can about the environment and the animals that inhabit the area where you're shooting. Norway is home to beautiful animals, but many of them, such as bears and wolves, are very dangerous and territorial. Even prey animals like deer will attack when scared. Particularly learn how those animals display threatening gestures, so you'll know if you're being warned to leave. Not only will this make you safer, it will also improve your photography since you'll be more likely to recognize when interesting moments are about to happen.
- Watch your step: If you're on unsteady terrain, never move with your camera up to your eye. It's a habit photographers often build when taking pictures indoors, or on flat surfaces, but it's very unsafe in a forest. A slight misstep could cause injury, so limit your photography to when you're standing still.
General safety tips apply as well: Always let someone know where you're going, and take a guide if you don't know the area. Wear bug spray when traveling through wooded areas, and sunscreen when spending long stretches of time outside. Even though Norway's summers are mild, you can still get a sunburn if you're not protected. Make sure you've checked the weather so you're not caught off-guard by a bad storm: The country's weather is fairly calm most of the time, but it can get freezing with heavy snowfall during winter.
Even beyond the safety issue, photographing wildlife takes a whole different skill set than other forms of photography. The animals aren't likely to pose for you, and you can't direct them the way you would a model. This makes wildlife photography more similar to photojournalism: You're looking for a moment, not creating it. This means you have to hone your observational skills, and have a strong knowledge of photography basics.
- Consider your shutter speed: Wildlife photography is often about action and movement. You can use a long or a short shutter speed to capture movement, although the effect will be dramatically different. Longer shutter speeds will create a blurring effect, which works well for pictures of animals bounding across a landscape. Short shutter speeds, however, can freeze a motion, creating dramatic images of animals jumping or leaping in mid-air.
- Pay attention to light: The best time of day to shoot outside is during the "golden hours" - the hours after sunrise and before sunset. When the sun is low in the sky, it creates a glowing lighting effect that makes images shine. On the other hand, shooting when the sun is high and bright can make your photos look flat. Play around with different lighting, and shoot first thing in the morning or in the early evening whenever possible.
- Focus on variety: Although your long lens will give you the chance to take up-close pictures from a distance, don't forget to get some shots from other perspectives. Wider-angled shots put the animal in context. Since you're photographing these creatures in the wild, you can take advantage of Norway's beautiful landscapes to frame the subject of your image. Any pictures you can take of the animals interacting with each other or something in their environment will likely be your very best shots: Keep an eye out for these moments, and catch them whenever you can.