Depth of Field is important in achieving any good photograph. Landscape photographers often want everything to be in focus in the final image, from the foreground to the distance. Wildlife photographers however frequently need to have their subject shown in sharp focus, with the background and any obtrusive features out of focus or blurred.
Three principal factors control Depth of Field (DoF). The longer the focal length of a lens (e.g. with telephoto lenses), the smaller is the DoF. The larger the aperture is set on a lens, the smaller is the DoF also. When the subject is closer to the camera lens, rather than further away, the Dof is smaller as well. However it is necessary to juggle these factors for the desired result, particularly in respect of achieving an appropriate shutter speed, and selecting a suitable ISO helps in this respect.
I must mention first that these “Tips” are intended for budding wildlife photographers and not for seasoned photographers.
If you do not already have a DSLR camera body that you consider suitable for wildlife photography and want to obtain one, the first choice is between one with a full frame sensor and one with a cropped sensor. My suggestion is that you enquire from reliable sources and look on the web to find out the different advantages and disadvantages between cameras with each type of sensor. My main advice is that you obtain the most suitable type and make of camera body you want, but are sure you can definitely afford. A second hand body in good condition should be less expensive and is well worth investigating.
I only use digital equipment now, because
of its vastly useful flexibility. It is really necessary to know fully all the controls on your camera, where they are located, how to use them both for hand-controlled ones and those via a menu, and what they each achieve. For those that are hand-controlled it is very useful to learn to use each of them while still keeping your eye on the viewfinder. This enables you to still keep a subject in view if it moves to another site.
Concerning the Mode for wildlife photography, I nearly always use Aperture Priority (A), and adjust the aperture and ISO to get the shutter speeds I consider necessary for the occasion. Surprisingly high ISOs can be used with modern digital cameras, without creating unacceptable “noise”.
Telephoto lenses, while not always necessary, are very useful for much wildlife photography. It is often not easy to get close enough to a wild subject you want to photograph, and it is never acceptable (or even permissible for many species of birds) to get so close as to disturb it. A suggestion is to try to obtain a lens up to 500 mm. focal length. These can be very expensive but again it can be possible to find a used one in good condition at a reasonable price. Do consider a zoom lens as an alternative to a prime one if you only obtain one type. The latter gives somewhat sharper images, but some zoom lenses can be definitely sharp enough to achieve acceptable results, and have the advantage of a varying focal length for different situations.
Continued on the left column
A Useful Hide
These photos are of a portable hide made of thin canvas material, which is light enough to be moved by one person. They show both the front where the camera lens protrudes, and the rear where the photographer can enter, sit on the small chair and then close the rear flaps, to be completely hidden.
When it is necessary to collapse the hide for storage, this is quite easily and quickly done. There are larger sized hides like this available, but they are not so easily moved, and I find this type very useful.
Click on an image to enlarge