This is just a quick one for the photographers out there.
Kylie Jones ran a post a few months ago in which she asked some of the Londolozi guides their best photographic tips.
The one I went with was to zoom out more often.
Many is the time I have seen people miss a great shot because of the temptation to over-use a camera’s zoom. When starting your journey into photography, it can be really exciting to see just how great a lion or leopard’s face can look when viewed through a 400mm lens, yet more often than not, by zooming in you are missing the most vital aspect of photography; story-telling.
I still regularly make that mistake; going full zoom to get the most detail I can in an animal, yet the real magic of the shot is actually in the landscape or area through which the animal is walking, or what is going on around it. I know we’ve probably beaten this same drum on the blog before, but it’s a point worth repeating.
A photograph of a leopard feeding on a kill in a tree, with a hyena prowling around the base, tells a story. A close-up portrait of the same leopard does not:
Of course the lens you are using can be a limiting factor. Prime lenses generally offer the best quality shots, especially as they will often be able to go to a lower f-stop, shallowing that depth of field and letting in more light. Personally though, I find them slightly limiting. Yes the quality is amazing, but compositionally they are much harder to work with, as you don’t have the luxury of being able to zoom in or out to depict a scene better. One way around this is to stitch frames together, which is what I did in the photo of the Anderson male above. The photo is actually a composite of eight images; the lens I was using wasn’t wide enough to capture the whole scene, and parking the vehicle much further away would have resulted in bushes between us and the action, obscuring the shot. Knowing that the real story was the full-tree-leopard-and-hyena shot, I snapped of 8 frames and used Lightroom to stitch them together.
One of each of the following pairs of photographs featured in last Friday’s TWIP:
The above two pictures are from the same sighting of the Mashaba female leopard drinking at a glassy pan. The first photo was taken with a prime lens, and although sharp and showing the leopard’s forequarters in detail, loses some of the feeling of the second picture, which shows the whole leopard. For me the second picture (zoomed out on a 70-200mm lens) is the more evocative. Leopards are seen as secretive animals, and – at least in my mind – the more mystery one can intimate in a photograph of one the better. I like the curled tail in the second photograph, and its reflection. Of course photography and the appreciation thereof is highly subjective, but I prefer the second picture to the first.
In the following two photographs, we have almost the same situation:
The first photograph simply shows a rhino having a drink. The second picture however (also stitched from multiple images), provides scale, and in doing so hints at more; the solitude of the rhino bull, the serenity of the scene, and the setting itself creates a story.
Look, sometimes zooming in is what you want. Zoom accentuates depth of field and can make a subject pop. It can provide incredible detail that would remain otherwise unappreciated.
All I’m saying is take the time to consider what you’re actually trying to convey in an image. Far more often than not, I’ve found that zooming out gets the story across that much better. For me at least…