We all strive to take beautiful photographs, which often means that we chase golden light topped with a beautiful subject. But what do we do when there is no light or our subject is not in a good position for a photograph? What is our thought process before pressing our shutter? Do we press the shutter at all? I would like to share my thoughts on this with you and what my process is before I take any image, regardless of the conditions.

I love wildlife photography not only for the memories it creates but also because of the challenges it holds. There are so many elements when it comes to wildlife photography that are out of our control which can test us and challenge us but it’s these elements that keep me wanting to learn more.

The technical side of photography is very important; understanding settings, how each change you make influences the next, and understanding how we can manipulate our camera to get the picture and end result is a must. That’s only half of it, however; the rest is up to the photographer.

Firstly and probably most important is to enjoy and take in whatever the scene may be, whether it’s an animal or a sunset. We must never forget the reason why we started taking pictures in the first place. I always make a conscious effort to enjoy being out in the field, taking in the smells, sounds and sights. This is always a great reminder of how privileged we are and something we should never take for granted.

When I set myself up to take a picture I try to identify what stands out to me, what I want to highlight for the viewer and how can I describe the scene and share my experience with others. Once again an animal in beautiful light is a dream photograph for any photographer but how do we create a good image when the elements are not on our side?

Looking at the scene in front of us and identifying key features to an image, we need to look at the bigger picture. Maybe an animal is in thick vegetation and in terms of learning and testing ourselves that is not always a bad thing. There is potential for a variety of different images we can take.  It may come in the form of a tail or a close-up of an animal’s paws. Having these thoughts stimulates us to think out of the box, move away from our comfort zone and test our abilities. Not every photograph we take will be amazing but instead of being negative or immediately discarding the image, rather take a moment and work out why the image came out the way it did or how you can improve it the next time you have a similar opportunity. There may not always be an opportunity to take a picture and for me that is the beauty of wildlife photography. The sense of the unknown keeps us going and wanting more.

There is a certain amount of planning that we can put into taking an image but as photographers we need to be flexible and adapt to any situation. In wildlife photography nature does not always present perfect conditions and so we need to adjust and create the best image possible at the time. Remember that taking a picture describes a scene of what we witnessed and how we experienced it. Great photographs are created by feeling and emotion; if you are passionate about your subject or the particular situation it will come through in the image.

Don’t be afraid to explore your camera and new situations, try something new and the results you come up with will more often than not surprise you.


Having mentioned testing ourselves and pushing our photographic boundaries if the opportunity is there, there is and always will be a place for images such as this one in our galleries. Iso 1000 F2.8 1/200 Sigma 120 – 300mm F2.8 @300mm

giraffe backlight

Not the normal image one sees of giraffe but a good example of trying something different. The use of the early morning sun helps to highlight key features of the giraffe from a new angle. Iso 1000 F5,6 1/400 Canon 100 – 400mm @400mm


Slightly obscured view, the angle and the photograph describes the scene – Fairly thick vegetation as the Ndzanzeni female looks at her kill hanging from the tree above. Using an aperture of f2.8 makes for a shallow depth of field; focusing on the subject but blurring the vegetation. ISO 800 F2.8 1/1250 Sigma 120 -300mm @300mm

elephant eye

Even though I had beautiful light I identified the eye of the elephant as my subject for the rich red colour and tried as best as Ii could to manipulate my camera to showcase the eye and surround area. ISO 800 F2.8 1/1600 Sigma 120 – 300mm @300mm


When conditions are not ideal and the contrast is high this is a great opportunity to use black and white, which sometimes can add the extra element which can make the subject pop. ISO 800 F4 1/4000 Sigma 120 -300mm @300mm

Star trail

In some instances the image in which we seek need to be created, Exploring new forms of photography and stepping out of our comfort zones can be intimidating but exploring the unknown can often produce images we could only dream about. ISO 100, f1.4 Shutter left open for 30minutes, Sigma 20mm F1.4


We can often complicate a simple subject but by identifying our surrounds and using angles the end result will often exaggerate the scene. ISO 400 F2.8 1/4000 Sigma 120 – 300mm @300mm


A silhouette is a great way to take advantage of contrasting light as it highlights our subject but still has the sense of the unknown. Iso 200 F2.8 1/4000 Sigma 120 – 300mm @220mm

mashaba young female2

Setting a scene with an image is always important, leopards by nature are shy and elusive animals and by showcasing this can create a very powerful and intense image. ISO 800, f4, 1/800 Sigma 120 – 300mm @300mm


the night sky 2

When taking pictures and trying to work out how to capture your subject we need to think beyond what the eye can see. Iso 1250 F1.4 ”25 Sigma 20mm 1.4


About the Author

Trevor McCall-Peat

Photographic Guide

Trevor joined Londolozi from Balule Game Reserve, and with this head start in guiding, he was up and running in no time as a Londolozi Ranger. Trevor has a unique style in photography, capturing images from fresh angles that most wouldn’t see. This ...

View Trevor's profile


on Exploring the Unknown

Join the conversationJoin the conversation

Victoria Auchincloss

Trevor, great pictures hope we see you at Christmas. Victoria

Michael Rendell

Amazing pictures. Can’t wait until we are there for our fifth visit at the end of July.

Wendy Hawkins

Beautiful all! Lovely to see different aspects/positions of the animals, especially the Giraffe 🙂

Michael & Terri Klauber

Trevor, Fantastic images! You inspire us!

Jill Larone

Trevor, all beautiful images! Thanks for sharing!

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