When it comes to nature photography, many of today’s top professionals are wielding telephoto lenses in the 500mm – 600mm range. Add on a teleconverter and focal lengths of 700mm – 1200mm are achieved. Sure this gives the photographer plenty of reach, but some of these combinations also come with a five figure price tag. While many of us, myself included, may dream of a lens of this magnitude, results are achievable with much more affordable gear.
Fortunately, these long focal lengths are not always required when photographing wildlife. Most of today’s DSLRs come with either a 250mm or 300mm telephoto zoom at the time of purchase, and these kit lenses are more than adequate for nature photography in many situations. When shooting with a shorter lens, getting close to your subject is paramount. One simple technique I use to get closer to my subject is to study their movements. After watching their behaviour and direction of travel, I try to put myself in a position where I believe the subject will be next. This technique is extremely productive especially when birds are feeding in the wild, and yields far better results than trying to directly approach them. Many wild animals are routinely pursued by predators and will quickly flee if they feel they are being stalked. By not pursuing your subject, and waiting for it to come to you, you won’t be perceived as a threat and closer views will be possible. Be sure to avoid sudden movements as this too will startle wildlife, causing them to run or fly from the area.
If you are shooting with a lens in the 250mm – 300mm range, photographing nature at your local park or own backyard can be your best options. Many of these animals are accustomed to human activity and are easily photographed with a shorter lens. Remember to avoid pursuing your subject as well as sudden movements as this will scare them off. Over the years I have taken many images with these shorter focal length lenses that I am more than happy with.
Next time you are out, keep these tips in mind. I think you will agree that regardless of what focal length your lens is, you will find yourself getting closer to nature.