I'll be the first to tell you that I'm typically not a wildlife photographer, but this past week in Grand Teton National Park, I was.
I held a photography workshop last Monday - Thursday there. We all got extremely lucky in the fact that starting Tuesday afternoon the weather took a turn for the worse. Or was it the worse? Although the weather eliminated the opportunity to photograph any sunrise or sunset, the cloudy, even lighting made for perfect conditions for photographing wildlife. Now we just had to find it...and boy did we. I believe we saw just about everything we could see that day with the exception of a grizzly bear and maybe a liger (see Napoleon Dynamite).
I had rented a 400mm lens for this trip and it a lot of cases the wildlife got so close to us that it really was too much lens. I had to get crafty with my compositions.
The bison you see above was photographed with a borrowed Canon 7D and a rented Canon 400mm F/5.6 prime lens. I shot the lens wide open pretty much all the time, which means it stayed on F/5.6, it's largest aperture setting. Since it was early morning hours and cloudy the light wasn't very bright. I had to boost my ISO to 3200, and I must say I was impressed with how the 7D handled that. This resulted in a shutter speed of 1/320th of a second. Now typically, the rule is you need to have at least 1/your focal length for a shutter speed when shooting handheld, so in my case that should've been 1/640th (the lens was an effective focal length of 640mm on the 1.6x crop factor sensor of the 7D) . I was, in fact, shooting handheld, but I braced the lens against a fence post when I made this image, so that allowed me to get away with a lower shutter speed and still have a sharp photograph.
Things you should take away from this post:
- When the weather gets nasty for making landscape images, make lemonade.
- Use fence posts.
- Watch Napoleon Dynamite.
- Go to the Tetons (assuming the government doesn't shut down).
- Get out and shoot!