We’re stuck in a pattern of short, gray winter days here in northwest Montana, so I am catching up on blogging about events and photos from last summer. Most of my images have been landscapes, but I want to expand my portfolio and skills to include wildlife in my nature photography. I had an excellent experience with a landscape workshop at the Rocky Mountain School of Photography
(RMSP) earlier this year, so I signed up for another workshop titled “Wildlife Up Close” in August 2009. The camaraderie among our eleven workshop participants was as rewarding as the new skills that I had learned!
Our workshop was held at the Triple “D” Game Farm
in Kalispell, Montana and lead by Neil Chaput de Saintonge, who is one of the founders and owners of RMSP. A game farm offers significant advantages for an accelerated learning experience, not the least of which is that you are assured of seeing a diverse group of animals in a short period of time. The best game farms for photographers are those that specifically cater to photography and artists. They understand how to create an optimal environment for excellent photos and are experienced in coaching those of us who are learning the ropes.
The grey fox was among the fastest of all the animals we photographed. I learned to love the fast continuous exposure mode of my Nikon D300 camera (about 6 images per second) to capture the fox’s action! I also appreciated the effort that Triple D puts into creating natural photogenic environments for capturing great images.
We had an opportunity to photograph a bobcat kitten, which definitely rivaled the fox for speed and challenge in capturing a good composition. Overall, learning to respond quickly to fast animal action was my greatest challenge during the workshop. More practice is needed with action photography…
We also photographed this 2 year old grizzly bear. The Triple D kept us safe behind a wire fence with a camera-height gap for photography. We were only 50 feet or so away from this grizzly bear!
I approach landscape photography in a contemplative manner. Mountains don’t move, so I have time to observe the shapes, patterns, and light while creating a composition. All of these elements are equally important in wildlife images, but the contemplation occurs while planning for a shoot and the desired composition may come together for only a fraction of a second. It is essential that you are intimately familiar with your camera’s operation and the technical aspects of photography, so that concentration is focused on composition and capturing interesting behavior.
I intend to get out and photograph wildlife in the “wild” next year in Glacier National Park and during a trip to Alaska planned for September 2010. I’m looking forward to the new year!