[Editor’s Note: The following is the second in a series of posts on animal photography]
Wildlife photography is one of the most competitive photographic fields. It demands uncompromising skill and the utmost dedication.
Far from the world of tame, well-controlled pet portraits, wildlife photography is about capturing the essence of an animal in its own habitat. Where the photographer can direct the shot in the studio, he or she must work around the animal in the wild, making sure his human-shy subjects are unaware of the photographer’s presence.
You could wait for hours or even days for the animal to appear. “In the bush,” says award winning photographer Beverly Joubert, “patience is a virtue.”
In addition to patience, specialized equipment like digiscopes and camera traps are tremendously helpful in helping to find and observe subjects. Digiscopes, which are popular with bird-watchers, let you observe an animal from a distance, and some, such as Leica’s spotting scope, can be fitted onto most compact cameras.
However, achieving truly intimate close ups in remote areas, where even your scent can scare the animals, requires a camera trap. Almost all of National Geographic‘s most stunning wildlife images, such as a tiger cooling off in a watering hole, or the tail end of a crocodile slinking to its den are camera trap photos that would be impossible to achieve from a distance.
These unmanned cameras are left in the field, and they begin shooting when the unsuspecting animal crosses an invisible infrared beam. The camera adjusts the shutter speed throughout the day and can be set to take a single, or many multiples of pictures.
These intimate, sometimes wild shots can be time consuming. The trap responsible for Michael Nichols’s famous Serval cat image, for example, was set in front of a crocodile watering hole for three months and required several return trips by Nichols’ assistant to collect the pictures and make adjustments.
As far as selling wildlife photos, there are several specialist wildlife collections such as The National Geographic Image collection, but almost all mainstream providers include photos of animals in their collections and are worth exploring.
A National Geographic commission is most probably the most prestigious wildlife photography accolade, as well as one of the hardest to get. National Geographic photographers come with years of photographic experience and tend to have a degree in a subject other than photography including anthropology, biology and fine art among others. An impressive portfolio that might help land commissions for travel magazines and travel sections of newspapers might not even be enough to land a National Geographic commission.