This is a continuation from last week which discussed yourself as a photographer and what you are photographing.
Gear, the subject that we like to discuss at length. As mentioned, I am not encouraging you to buy a super-telephoto lens or the latest camera; I am encouraging you instead to know the camera and lens you currently have better. Depending on your camera, there are limits to what is photographically possible and to how well you can control your settings, but the more you know about its shutter speed capability and lens focal length, for example, the better you will choose when and why to push the shutter button.
Let’s assume, however, that you have a moderately priced DSLR or mirrorless camera and a standard zoom lens, something with which you can control exposure settings. With a setup like this, you can create great images. Start by getting comfortable with your camera, know how to operate it, change settings, and use it without having to dig into the menu. Create custom settings and get to know the feel and sound of the camera’s functions. With an understanding of your camera’s operation, it’s time to experiment. Play with shutter speed, aperture setting, and focal length. Even without a long telephoto lens, improve your ability to walk closer to animals without disturbing them and understand how best to compose in the frame you have, while still featuring your subject.
Instead of a tight and tack-sharp shot of a bird on the water, imagine a wider shot of many birds, and instead of bringing the subject into crisp focus, slow the shutter speed and you have this impressionistic scene of blurred wings taking flight over reflective and rippled water. Use control over the tools you have to make a shot that speaks of the moment and your relationship to that moment, and you will have created a great photograph.
Remember also that gear is not just a camera and lens; it is film, battery life, basic accessories, and protection to keep the camera functioning out in the field. It is also transportation and maps and apps. Make sure the tools you are using are in the best condition possible and ready to withstand the rigors. Clothes and footwear are also gear. Know what you need to wear to keep yourself in the game, especially when it’s cold.
Start with what you have, photograph what and where you already know and bring your best self into the game. With this in mind, you will begin to see better results, and, with time, you will build upon that—hike farther, find new subjects, expand your toolset. But for now, take better wildlife photos without buying anything.
Let me hear your anecdotes on wildlife photography with or without expensive setups, in the Comments section, below.