Friday, March 07, 2008

Obtaining Wildlife Reference Photographs for Artists: Part 1

After all the discussion that have taken place following the announcement by the UKCPS on their conditions of entry to their Annual Exhibition, I thought it might be useful to offer some advice on obtaining your own wildlife photographs.

At this point I would like to stess that I am only an amateur photographer and I am only offering advice about things I have found useful.
Over the last few years I have built up a nice collection of lenses, but I started with a point and shoot Fuji digital camera and was still able to obtain useful photographs.
I now use a Canon EOS 30D SLR camera, and the following lenses: a Canon EF 28-300mm L IS USM (which is my pride and joy), a Canon 28-135mm IS USM and a huge Sigma 500mm zoom.
I also sometimes add a Kenco 2x teleconverter.
Most of the advice however applies equally to lower end equipment.
Both the following photographs are of wild animals, in both cases I got close enough to use a small camera.
The next time I see the mouse I have my sons small Fuji ready so that you can see there is really little difference as long as you are close to the animal. Always remember I am talking about using photographs as reference for your artwork, not producing a photograph which would win an award.

So first things first, you have decided you need some reference photographs to help with painting an animal(s), what do you need to think about.

  • What species of animal do you want to paint
  • How far are you able to travel
  • How much time and money do you want to spend.

So I decide I want to photograph a tiger. I'll then use the internet to come up with a list of Zoo's or Wildlife Parks within the area I am willing to visit. I will look at the list of animals each facility keeps and make a short list of which ones have tigers. At this point I might look at which subspecies are kept or how far away each place is.

I might find that the best choice is a photographic day which several facilities offer, these are obviously much more expensive than a visit to the Zoo or Wildlife Park.

So now I know where I'm going I need to decide when I'm going. I would avoid:-

  • School Holidays/Weekends if possible
  • The middle of the day as I find the animals are most active early morning or late afternoon.
  • Very cold or very warm weather (this depends on the species to some extent)

I'm now ready for my trip, packed the camera and put on some comfortable shoes, and clothing suitable for standing still for long periods of time.

In the next part I will discuss what to do when faced with your model, especially if it is a speck on the horizon.


Gillian McMurray said...

Thank you for sharing this information. I am looking forward to reading the rest of the article. Love your mouse pictures. I had a rat in my garden that I was photographing - until a neighbour found him in her garden and brought in pest control. :o(

Gayle Mason said...

Thanks Gillian, you made me laugh about the rat, I have a feeling my neighbours might not be quite so fond of the mouse as I am. In fact my husband isn't quite so fond of the mouse either.

Unknown said...

Aww that cute little mouse?

Even though I don't do wildlife art, I am looking forward to your next post!

I bet some of the same techniques would even work for photographing my children when they are active!

Making A Mark said...

I can tell already that this is going to be an enormously practical and down to earth series Gayle. Very much focused on how you can make things work for you no matter what the challenge!

This is definitely going in my 'who's made a mark this week' post on Sunday.

Gayle Mason said...

Thanks Nicole and Katherine, I'll certainly try to make it useful.