This is a short article on some of the tricks I’ve
learnt whilst trying to take pictures of the jungle and all the wildlife that
lives within. Before I jump in I must explain why I have chosen this topic, and
not gone down the conventional route of bio-sciences. At university I studied documentary
film making, and I aim to work in wildlife documentaries, hence why I’m here in
the jungle talking about how to photograph it. I must also mention that I’m not
a professional photographer and these tips are what I have picked up since
being here, so if you disagree with me or feel my tips aren’t helpful, I’m glad
I could help waste your time.
My first tip of the day is so obvious it hurts me
even to say it, but it’s to get yourself a camera. Selecting the right camera will
depend a lot on your personal preferences and requirements; if you just want holiday
snaps and you’re not fussed about shutter speeds, ISO settings or any technical
camera jargon then buy yourself a point and shoot camera. They’re easy to use
and you won’t have to worry about what camera settings to use as the camera
will do all of that for you. When you see something you want a picture of just
turn it on, point it and then press the shutter button; easy as pie. These days
you can get some really good results for a low price. On the other hand you
will never get the high quality of an SLR or DSLR (digital single lens reflex)
but these cameras can take some time to get used to and when using them in
manual mode you’ll have to know the basics about shutter speeds, aperture and
ISO settings. You could say these cameras are for the more serious
photographer, but they do also come with auto modes so you can learn as you go
a long and still get a high quality picture.
The second tip is related to taking pictures of all
the creatures great and small that you could come across whilst in the jungle.
When walking the trails you must keep as quiet as you can so you don’t scare
anything away. And with this rule you must prepare yourself to see anything and
everything or nothing at all. So with the power of silence and great patience
you stand a far better chance of seeing animals to photograph, and if you’re
unlucky enough not to, there’s always our resident scarlet Macaw, Wawee.
Tip number three is to not hold back when it comes
to how many pictures you should take. In other words don’t just take one
picture at a time, take as many as your finger and camera will let you. You
might never see this animal again and the more pictures you take the more you
have to select from.
Tip four: the only word I know to describe the next
tip is to ‘Chimp’. Chimping is when
you take a picture and through the magical technology of a LCD screen on
digital cameras you look at what you’ve taken. This is a good habit to form as
sometimes you could take a picture and something could be wrong with it. Your
subject could be out of focus or the white balance could be wrong. As much as I
enjoy having a LCD screen on my camera, sometimes a screen can be misleading
and when you plug your camera into a computer your pictures might not be as in
focus as you hoped. So if you have the ability to zoom in on pictures on the
camera do so and check that everything you wanted to photograph is in focus.
Tip five is about framing your shot. The most
important thing you’ll need to consider whilst framing a shot is the rule of thirds.
The rule of thirds is a simple concept when you’re looking at your LCD screen
or down your viewfinder. Spilt your frame into three equal horizontal zones;
these days most cameras have the option to superimpose gridlines over your
viewfinder or screen, which can act as a guide for the rule of thirds as well
as keeping your horizons, well, horizontal. Framing up a shot all comes down to
what you what out of the picture. For example if you’re taking a picture of a
monkey just before it’s about to jump from one tree to another, don’t just
focus on the monkey - use the rule of thirds to have the monkey at the bottom
of your frame, have his jumping space in the middle and where he is going to
jump to at the top. This way you will get a good sense of what the monkey’s
about to do and where he’s headed.
The next section is aimed at people who use their
camera’s manual mode, so I’ll be diving into the slightly more technical side
of photography. If you don’t use manual modes maybe this section can inspire
you to - or at least teach you - something you didn’t already know.
When you’re taking any photograph there are a few
things you need to take into account, namely exposure and the strengths and
weaknesses of your camera. These rules can’t be learnt over night but with time
and practice you will start to develop your own style and technique (I’m still
When considering the exposure of a shot there are
many things that you have to take into account, but because I don’t have all
day and I don’t want to waste any more paper I will talk about the three main
elements: shutter speed, aperture and ISO. All three elements are separate
functions on your camera that, combined in the right way, can produce that
Shutter speed is the speed at which your camera
will open and close which in turn determines how much light hits the sensor.
Aperture (also known as f-stop) is how open your
lens is. I usually think of it as the iris in your eye: the more open it is the
more light it lets through.
The first thing I set out of these three is the ISO.
ISO is the cameras own light that it uses to illuminate the sensor and
ultimately the image. You have to be careful that you don’t set the ISO too
high as it will create a higher electronic current which can lead to grainy
pictures, but more expensive cameras are generally better at handling higher
ISOs. I like to keep the ISO between 100 and 400; the reason being is if I go
higher than 400 on my camera the picture start to look grainy. When in the jungle
the light is often limited and is always changing, so I tend to set my ISO
high. I find it easier and quicker to set my ISO once and change my shutter
speed if I need to brighten or darken my picture.
When considering the best shutter speed you should
take into account whether your subject is moving or not. If the shutter speed
is too low and you’re trying to take a picture of a moving subject then no
matter how in focused your camera is, the picture will be blurred. Aperture
will also depend on the lighting situation you find yourself in. The one thing
you must remember: the lower the aperture the more light the lens will let
through, allowing faster shutter speeds, sharper images and greater detail. These
are just a few tricks and tips I have picked up in my first month living in
this place that I’ve come to call home. One thing I’ve learnt is not to live life
through the lens; for whatever reason it may sometimes be that conditions will
prevent you from being able to take a good photo; so don’t get frustrated,
enjoy the moment and take a mental picture.