As wildlife photographers we need to be prepared for every situation and more often than not, half the battle is understanding our cameras and being able to adapt and change our settings at the blink of an eye. Faced with so many external elements we cannot control, we need to ensure that we are equipped with the right knowledge and understanding of those aspects that we do have control over so that we can best prepare ourselves for any challenges that comes our way.
So what exactly do I mean by the ABC’s of photography?
There are three key settings that are worth grasping a full understanding of. Once we understand this triangle, which consists of ISO, Aperture and Shutter Speed and the influence they have on one another, we can then experiment and manipulate each of these variables in order to achieve our optimal outcome.
The balance between them will depend on amount of available light, how fast your subject is moving, what the terrain looks like and what effect you’re aiming to achieve amongst many others. My suggestion is to play with shutter speed to blur or freeze movement and see what result different speeds will give you depending on your subject. Experiment with your aperture to test what depth of field does and how your lenses, angle and subjects change the outcome. Experiment at night or with bright sunshine to see what ISO’s your camera is capable of reaching without becoming grainy and how they change the amount of light you get in an image. If you’ve done this and understand how this triangle of elements influences each other, then you’re well on your way mastering the ABC’s.
As a photographer my worst moments are those when I think I’ve captured my perfect image only to realise that my camera was still on the settings from the night before and have now completely missed my opportunity. Now before heading out on drive I take a few moments to pre-set my camera to a standard ”go to” setting that I feel best fits the current conditions. What this allows me to do is have my camera ready and set before any form of action takes place. It is not to say that my settings will always be correct and in most cases I will have to make adjustments but working from this standard baseline means that these adjustments are always just minor and take me no time at all to perform. A fairly basic suggestion but one that I believe can make the world of difference for you.
Lastly, make sure you get really familiar with your gear. Each photographer has different styles, preferences and artistic talents but you can really only start to explore these once you have a good grasp on the technical aspects. Take time to test out your equipment and get to know the ins and outs of its capabilities. Camera gear is all very different and so every photographer’s standard ”go to” settings will be different.
Photographers are no different to sportsmen in that they can only play their best game when they’ve mastered the basics. Don’t undermine the ABC’s- it is a key in your photographic growth.