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Backpacker Magazine – March 2010

Shoot Photos Like a Pro: Wildlife

Capture great wildlife photos with patience and know-how regarding their movements and your camera.

by: Steve Howe

(Photo by Ken Archer)
(Photo by Ken Archer)


The secret to catching life-list animals on camera: patience. If you do get lucky, avoid startling the animal: Wear natural colors, avoid shiny items, and approach your quarry slowly, from downwind.

» Find the perfect backdrop first, then wait for a chance to place the animal in it. “If I see a mountain that I want, I’ll move myself to where I can frame the elk looking toward the mountain,” says wildlife photographer Ken Archer.

» Observe your subject until you can begin to predict its movements and behavior.
“The more time you spend with an animal, the better photo you’re going to get,” advises Archer. That way, you’ll be ready when the bull elk raises his head or the bear looks toward you.

» Remember the rule of thirds, and leave active space for the animal to look or move into (like the bull elk above).

» Use a 100-400mm zoom lens with the largest aperture you can. (Archer uses f/5.6 to f/11). This lets you shoot at faster speeds in low light, when many animals are most active.

» To catch an animal in motion, increase your shutter speed and pan along with it as it moves. Use about a 1/1,000 for small, quick mammals. For eagles in flight, Archer shoots at least 1/2,000 and tracks the bird as it passes. Release the shutter and continue panning for a few more seconds.

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