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A photographer sets up a tripod to take a photo from the deck of a cruise ship in Alaska
16 October, 20203 minute read

Travel photography: top tips for photographing wildlife

Travel opens you up to a world of spectacular sights and attractions, from the savannahs of Africa to the breathtaking landscapes of Antarctica. And whether you’re clutching a camera phone, compact camera or advanced SLR, you’ll want to make sure you capture that moment you spot a majestic herd of elephants, a tiger half-hidden in the undergrowth or a jewel-coloured hummingbird. To help you out, we’ve put together our top tips for snapping wildlife on your next holiday.

See the world differently

A camera takes a photo of a butterfly

Think carefully about what you are trying to capture and convey in the photo. Make sure that you experiment with different perspectives and, it may sound obvious, but check the photos you take! There’s nothing worse than capturing that magic moment and then reviewing it back at the hotel on the camera screen only to discover that it’s blurry.

Photography is dependent on light, and being in the right place at the right time of day can dramatically enhance the quality of a photo. Whilst the golden hours of early morning and later afternoon are well documented, don’t forget the dramatic effect that dusk, fog and harsh sunlight can have on a picture. Patience is also a virtue when photographing wildlife – the most magical moments happen very rarely (or when you’re least expecting them).

Camera capabilities

Tourists take photos of wildlife during a safari game drive

With wildlife photography, a good distance zoom lens is always an advantage. Experiment with your camera settings too – you’ll be surprised what even an entry level camera is capable of. Doing your research at home means that you won’t be wasting valuable time on holiday trying to work the camera.

Playing around with the apertures and shutter speed can add an extra dimension to your photographs, offering control over depth of field and the ability to capture motion in a picture. If you are planning on photographing whales, birds or other fast-moving animals, be sure to locate your camera’s ‘burst mode’ if it has one – your camera will take a burst of continuous shots and if you are lucky, one of them will have captured something great.

Be prepared

Whale watchers observe a humpback whale breaching

If you intend to use your camera’s zoom for wildlife pictures, make sure that you have extra batteries (and your battery charger), as zooming in and out can drain the camera’s power. If you are travelling to colder climates, be prepared to change your battery more often – the colder temperatures mean they drain more quickly. When storing your camera between excursions, try and keep it to as similar a temperature as the outside as possible - this will limit the amount of fog you get on your lens.

In the days of digital photography, we are lucky that clicking away endlessly to get the perfect shot is a possibility. Just be sure to take a supply of memory cards to store your wonderful experiences – you can then spend time at home editing them to perfection.

Capture the moment, but also live it

A photographer crouches next to a seal lion on a beach in the Galapagos

It’s all too easy to be snap-happy on holiday when you are surrounded by extraordinary sights. But one of the most important things to remember – before you reach for your camera – is to ensure you take time to live the moment with your own eyes.

If possible sit down and just take it in. Breathe in the air, sounds and smells of your surroundings, look around you at the landscape and draw in the whole experience. It will help you all the more when collating your memories at home.

Take a look at our wildlife holidays for inspiration.  

Image of blog author Nicola James

Nicola considers herself very lucky to have had the opportunity to visit a number of places around the world and these experiences usually involve searching for as many kinds of wildlife as possible. Recent highlights include penguins in Antarctica, bears and whales in Canada and Alaska and sea otters in California - but there are always more animals to search for.

Nicola | About the author

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