Wildlife photography has been a lifelong passion of mine. As a child, I watched Marlin Perkins’ “Wild Kingdom” and dreamed of being the person behind the camera. But even more than my love of photographing nature is my love for nature itself.
My childhood was spent outdoors catching frogs and lizards, watching ants busy doing ant things, and lying on my back in the grass wondering what it would be like to fly up high with the hawks.
Now, a bit older and less likely to harass frogs, I still wonder at this amazing planet.
A sense of wonder is part of what can give a photo depth and story.
What is the subject doing? How does it live? And most intriguing to me: what would it be like to be them, to put myself in their world?
Wildlife photos are often up-close views where the subject fills the frame in glorious detail. Getting that close to wildlife can be a challenge because telephoto lenses are expensive, and wild things do not want to be near humans. This can be frustrating, but it can also be an opportunity to see subjects differently, to back off and take in a little more of their world.
Including more space around the subject can tell you more about it and help answer questions about their lives, letting the viewer connect more.
Space helps create a sense of scale, which can make the subject seem big or small. It can make the viewer feel big or small.
Space can help create a mood.
Look for interesting areas of the surrounding environment. Where might the subject live, eat, sleep, hunt or be hunted?
Look for scenic settings and frame the subject within the larger landscape.
Find artistic elements such as textures, patterns and colors to enhance the composition.
The subject itself can steal all of your attention. Who wouldn’t be in awe of a 1,500-pound bull moose or smitten by a pint-sized pika? It’s natural to want to get as close as possible and overlook the bigger picture. And when you can’t get in close, it can feel disappointing.
Take a pause, wait for the pika’s spell to break and notice the granite it’s perched on, the beautiful fall colors it seems to be taking in. Add it all into the composition, and let that enhance the photo. Turn the disadvantages of equipment and uncooperative nature into opportunities to tell a bigger story.