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As well as requiring photography skills, wildlife photographers may need field craft skills. For example, some animals are difficult to approach and thus a knowledge of the animal's behavior is needed in order to be able to predict its actions. Photographing some species may require stalking skills or the use of a hide/blind for concealment.
While wildlife photographs can be taken using basic equipment, successful photography of some types of wildlife requires specialist equipment, such as macro lenses for insects, long focal length lenses for birds and underwater cameras for marine life. However, a great wildlife photograph can also be the result of being in the right place at the right time and often involves a good understanding of animal behavior in order to anticipate interesting situations to capture in photography.
In the early days of photography, it was difficult to get a photograph of wildlife due to slow lenses and the low sensitivity of photographic media. Earlier photos of animals were usually pets, stuffed, and zoo animals. These included photos of lion cubs taken at the Bristol zoo in 1854 and in 1864, photos of the last Quagga by Frank Hayes. Wildlife photography gained more traction when faster photography emulsions and quicker shutters came in the 1880s. Developments like these lead to photos such as the ones taken by German Ottomar Anschutz in 1884, the first shots of wild birds in action. In July 1906, National Geographic published its first wildlife photos. The photos were taken by George Shiras III, a U.S. Representative from Pennsylvania. Some of his photos were taken with the first wire-tripped camera traps.
The world's three largest photography organisations, the Photographic Society of America, the Fédération Internationale de l'Art Photographique and the Royal Photographic Society have adopted a common definition for nature and wildlife photography to govern photography competitions, their respective presidents writing in a joint statement, "The development of a common definition for nature and wildlife photography will be an important step in helping photographers, many of whom enter competitions internationally, know what the rules are. It will also provide organisers with a very clear definition when they need to deal with the problem of ineligible images."
Gear for wildlife photography is very specialized and uses different lenses and equipment than most other disciplines. Most wildlife lenses have a very long focal length between 150mm and 600mm, allowing the photographer to get a tighter image filling the frame with their chosen subject. However, whilst the majority of wildlife is shot with a telephoto lens, when a wide-angle lens is used it can provide striking shots of animals within their environment.
Some other specialized gear includes camera traps, hides, and flash extenders.
Deer, Thrunelly Forest, Wayanad, Kerala
Eurasian brown bear (Ursus arctos arctos), Denmark
Monkey at Wayanad, Kerala
Harry Opstrup, Dyrehaven, 1970
- Wildlife Photography | Pixean
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- National Wildlife Magazine
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