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The Art of Wildlife Photography

Lesson 18 of 24

Landscape and Portraits in the Field: Bison


The Art of Wildlife Photography

Lesson 18 of 24

Landscape and Portraits in the Field: Bison


Lesson Info

Landscape and Portraits in the Field: Bison

so we're going to go umm south political angelo flats where this time of year there's oftentimes bison and sometimes a few pronghorn light's pretty harsh right now but our options are getting limited because the storm's coming in we're gonna made lose our light here later in the afternoon so we're at least gonna go scout and see if we can find some bison and then uh tip you typically they don't move too far in a day or in a few hours so actually I see some right now over there there's about forty or fifty or so one cool thing about bison is they stay and pretty big groups herds and that hurt their looks like about fifty to seventy five and that's not all of them there's some other six or eight hundred in the park um spread out all through the park so we'll see those air out in the middle of too far for us to get to and it's not real smart to approach them on foot this time of year a tte least any close distance so we're not gonna do that because they're in a rut on their little laundry...

so we're gonna try to find something closer to the road it's got him out and see if we can take us um take a few pictures and then come back later in the afternoon and hopefully the light will be better not so harsh is it is right now right now the melons are really beautiful begin the storm there's a storm coming in this evening to return to take the best take advantage of the situation of the storm's really make the incoming storm is making for great clouds a great light in the grand so we're tryingto get animals in front of the mountains before the sun is gone since we just had this day and tomorrow will be rainy we won't be able to see the mountains probably and there's a beautiful herd of bison here in this yellow grass um so we just shoot this kind of wide shot and this is actually a really good place for a polarizer uh I rarely use a polarizer but this will give them more contrast to the clouds a little more blue to the skies and um so if you want to use a polarizer it's so beautiful I don't really think you need one but you and know jennifer wanted to candy's a polarizer and it might be worth trying but I'm going to shoot straight I think so we'll get up here just a little bit higher so we can so we can see their legs better right now they look like they're legless bison so if we just get more elevation we just walk over here okay this is how it used to be one hundred fifty years ago across north america across the prairies alway the mississippi this is the last of the remnant of what the west was once like and uh we're lucky to be here right now but instead of ah is that maybe two three hundred bison here I suppose one hundred fifty years ago that might have been a thousand or two thousand three thousand so I'm sure the I s o three twenty because we have lots of light and uh clouds are gorgeous and this yellow this yellow grass is really beautiful bison are small but you can see this great lands here and it might be uh I think this might be worth this dish panoramic too but we need to get across this little addition get just a little bit higher so let's just go a little bit further what I would suggest you see the mountain the sun has gone off the mountain because of the clouds go and shoot it then be aware when the sun comes back on the mountain it's not as dramatic right now as it was five minutes ago but the sun will welcome back it just has a little cloud right up here so I'm gonna put on a polarized or just see you could just hold it like this and turn it is actually that's a little bit of drama and uh again I rarely use the polarizer but this is a good time to sew those who you have a polarized you wouldn't try it if you want to use mine you can with the polarizer just as contrast to the clouds in the sky it takes a little shine off the grass so that helps if you have a really wide angle I would shoot like ten percent grass in the sixty percent sky so she's like a twenty four even wider it's really cool so just a sliver of foreground give the bison room toe a little bit of space but and maybe you don't want to polarize when any polarizer you don't wantto over polarize it because it looks fake then so just turn your polarized or a little bit so many compositions here right now you get the whole landscape with a little tiny bison or you get just sort of the medium shot with the closer vice and bigger bison and just the south teton and he went out the northern teton range and just that picture so there's a thousand ways to shoot it but for me I'll shoot it ten ways one would be tight with the tetons and the bison and then one would be wider like I said a lot more sky and very little um foreground or low ground so I'm just basically I'm wishing like ten percent of the landscape and then about a third of the teton range about seventy years to whatever's left but the sky because it clouds and are so dramatic and um no mushy one once ditched panoramic for fun of it and I'm going to be a bit tighter now so you can tell the bison try to hold it steadies again I think we should move up because the bison are moving that way and maybe be a bit closer to the road let's do that so what you want to remember that these animals are really dark when you focus on the spot underside it says there's no light here or there's not enough like so it's going to open up your amateur or slow down your shutter speed to let in more light and you're going to overexpose the animal so you had to go to another one third stop lower than the third were we started with and it'll put you in the ballpark and then you wanna look at your history graham to see what it says but it's going to independent but how far zoomed in your if you have a lot of landscape and grass around it won't affect it much if you have mostly ninety percent bison it's gonna affect it it's going to say there's not enough light it's going over exposed so think about that and uh start with like a minus two thirds I'm sure any of four to three twenty so right now hold it dever right now you see that the tail is sticking out of the face of that big guy and it's a waste of ah of pixels so in order to do that wait or you could move up there but you're still gonna have the button in the face and you move that's his girlfriend he shading her shadowing her that's his girl and he won't let anybody else get in here and he'll keep circle and so now you have a bison it looks like it has six legs but not for so if we move down here we might be able to you know get them both in their these guys are moving that way this let's go down here a little bit but he's a gorgeous gorgeous animal okay now from this angle come down from this angle is actually to their two bulls are you a younger bullen your older bullet and his girlfriend I was in front so you gotta watch the guys in the back there's still some back there so it's not bad but you still got a bunch you need you need space between the animals no I'm not worried about the mountain's much but you see the again you got the butt of what he looks like he has two bucks two taels just have to wait until this separated a bit okay now he's turning he's checking on her to see if she has any interest guy in the back is still annoying so this is just a waiting game they're chewing their cuts so they're standing up sleeping basically right now these guys here are facing us so that's kind of nice so maybe work on these and that one guy's moving off so now you got a nice little package there with weight other one one's head gets out of the way rear area other one still not that great put their heads down so we're right in the in the goods position here for beautiful bulls for he listens he's coming over he's kind of interesting challenging let's walk down here to see if we can get this big guy with the tetons in the background okay I must step a little higher here so you could see more of the legs okay you guys get up here in this little know so they give you more legs okay they're moving down that way he lets go back to the car he's nice that yellow grass there he listens head he's handsome handsome now these others will follow him so I would I think we just stay right here and these guys will we'll follow the rest of the herd now these air separated nicer these three bulls you get down low so you get the guys in the back out of the frame it's a nice low angle shot anyway nice looking you know looking through the grass and being on the level of the animal you know that supposed to you being above it especially things like bears and vice and you know they're massive animals and you don't want to diminish it by shooting above them or shooting down on them but this little group here is nice we all get teo three or four heather heads up and this nice clouds in the background to do some wise no the shadows you have to be a little careful what's your history graham so go backto minus three now or a third motion is fourteen at six forty s o three twenty gives me the foreground grass will refocus the bison before august the clouds we focus everything okay is moving to the left here gasses little tall so now we may have to stand up we're gonna walk right across the grand teton we're going to move a little bit to the right and try to get the landscape because the light's coming back on the tetons there so I'd suggest maybe shoot your portrait's if you like is there still beautiful but be aware that now there's going to be a nice um wide angle and I'm going to go get my other camera grabbing one of the twenty four to seventy on it with a polarizer so I can get this beautiful clouds in this grass and get the landscape because they're all starting to migrate that way we'll go down here the grass is tall er be careful this irrigation if you shoot lower not all the way down you can avoid the ditch but hopefully these guys here these big guys we'll cross there so so much of this is about predicting you know where an animal is going to go in what what the background is going to be so anticipating animals behavior that hurt all move that way these guys are lined up to move that way so they will go that way eighty percent so the picture now for may would be if they lined up nicely and filled in that big grass he humped the grass hump there and with the tetons in the background and you see that nice bull there with the cal burns on his back trying to catch up with his girlfriend it doesn't want to leave er sue it we might just back off here in a few feet to give them some space okay so keep that composition in mind there and try not to get this for this foreground with it with the grass looks like the roadside and so compose it now as if the bison were walking across there okay here comes from number one maybe there goes the other ones now be ready lift your heads up guys hey this way it was another bull he's worth a portrait of somebody wants to go for it but then you risk the landscape just stick with the landscape that's nice right now you got a flock of birds let your buffer fill up and be out wait wait wait really nice that's nice okay he's lost his cow so he's going back to look for her so it's two o'clock in the afternoon and we have a little break in the action the bison are barely moving but it's we're gonna take a little break here but before this was a nice landscapes I'm not nice light on the mountains there and ah you know the bison were tiny but you could see the you know several hundred or so in the frames and we shot a lot with just a little bit of uh foreground and a lot of um sky and in the le bison in the mountains and then they started moving across the mountains so the idea was to get the bison moving in front of the mountains again we're really doing a lot of mountain stuff and so much is you know the details have been shot shot to death so you got to keep working it it's not like a new place and I shot thousands of pictures here and so you got to really keep working these sorts of situations and this is different than what I've seen before so new to me in a sense so that was my goal to shoot um the bys especially that nice herd of half a dozen bulls that we're following the herd and um uh these the rest of her will you move that way so we're just gonna wait here for thirty forty minutes I'm pretty confident that we'll get another opportunity and the light will even be a little bit better because it's now heading towards sunset so um and once they get that way once a vice and get that way then they're kind of unfold a graphical for now because there's no place out there we can go so we'll uh we'll wait there's five beautiful bulls here right now and they're all facing us and they got their heads up which isn't always what they're doing so their their little active they just had a little snooze and they're digging dust passenger rolling in it and so is the behavior you know bison don't show a lot of behaviour and you've got this beautiful yellow grass and the in the background with the yellow aspirins back there so it's really nice and you got it bison rolling over there he's shaking off now this guy's beautiful here so they're just another moving about think about the teton shot again smelling to see if she's in estrus ready to mate that's beautiful huh nice light you know the group grand wasn't the spectacular like we had a little bit ago but it's that even that silhouette is great you know is the teton silhouette so you still have another couple hundred wait for could I get a cheeseburger with mustard and pickle only maybe a cold cold beer uh I love it that was awesome uh so tom we have a few questions we'd like to take and I'd love to hear questions from people here in the room as well so go ahead and let me know and we will get to a little michael passed us right up here in front while we are passing we have photography by rue pesh and two other people who said I could never figure out if the horizon line should be in the middle on the top or bottom third what makes the best picture for landscape and I heard you telling them you almost want only ten percent grass is that kind of a standard for you or is that more just for that particular situation what do you analyzing when you decide what we'll because this guy was so beautiful it was more interesting than the grass in that situation overall but he you know the thing is you do both ways you know but generally you don't want the horizon in the center of the frame either one of thirds guy two thirds foreground and mid ground oryou want um two thirds guy and one third foreground mid ground but when you're doing wide angle stuff and you have these great clouds she want to get this big expansive landscape you know big sky country kind of thing been in that situation it's kind of fun to use a wider angle like a fourteen year twenty four even we didn't have the super wide but then that makes the bison so small but so it shows the twenty four to seventy is what I was shooting and just a ten percent of the of the landscape with the mountains kind of mid ground which which held the you know the picture if would have been no mountains there then the kind you have to have one hell of a good guy well and that's I think an interesting thing again we'll get right teo but we had the question yesterday about whether you ever shoot in midday or anything like that and this was today one o'clock two o'clock something so we're there for a couple hours was like eleven one kind of the worst time of day if you think about it but when you have claws like that and uh you know sometimes if you had a choice I mean there were those calls were coming in as it was it was nice and that's really what the situation was he took advantage of it and then using the polarizer helped uh but we're also limited on we had two days to shoot for this class and we knew pretty much the second day was going to be rain so then we take advantage of but it was still nice you know when you have a kind of weather conditions definitely has the availability of higher ece made the tripod less essential or were your focal lengths shorter so that you didn't we'd try pappas much right yeah ifyou're shouldn't is like the six hundred you can't really why hand hold it um the friend there tim was one of the students he had hay and my two to four hundred and he was hand holding that you can hand hold the two to four hundred pretty easily um at a higher shutter speed began if it's four hundred you want to be around five hundredth of a second that's two hundred to two hundredth of a second that those air guidelines that has a v r vibration reduction as most of lenses do now so you khun actually fudge up by another stop so you could shoot a four hundred to say two hundred that kind of thing but there's no real need to do that with a high I associate you answered your own question with the high I sew it is less need of a tripod but with longer lands is in for closer were longer lenses and tripods nice but in this situation where you're we were shooting you know the big landscape and animals moving all the time this kind of tedious to be moving a tripod and getting at level but the time you get a level you know their heads down or you know so I even with film and film days I shot a lot more hand held on tripod when they could get away with because you missed this off nature miss a shot you're fooling with the tripod and the love of the photographer um that tend to shoot a lot more handheld get the shot if you need to try pot that's great but in this but all this light there's a bird sanctuary near to where I lived when I find that when I go out it seemed to always have the wrong setting for the moment that one minute I c a a now all up here but there's a chick ity flitting around down here and you gotta change the settings real quick the moment will be gone so in an outing like that would you just sort of concentrate on the owl for that day that's a silly question yeah I would just go with it all the chickadees there may be more often um I'm gonna go with you where that always hang out with you and take a picture of the all but yeah I know you've got it maybe if you you pick pick the best subject and I would assume that would be the owl generally speaking because they're more rare but also be aware if the ticket is sitting on a bunch of berries or doing something interesting them you know me you take your eye off the ball for a bit but um that that's kind of an easy one for me to answer go with the all because I love owls use whatever you're interested in I love it carrie couldn't stand up I could use a little bit more about the stitched pictures that you took there what kind of focal length were you using and do you have an example of how either of those came out I should um we stitched somebody didn't didn't put any in here I don't believe unfortunately um you could see how is shooting him and um it would've been nice to see when it was finished um but I was shooting mostly the eighty two four hundred when I uh most the time or the twenty four to seventy but kind of a longer like a seventy millimeter are the eighty two four hundred publishing and they got two to eighty or something oh there you go so that was a with a wider lens um so it must mean the twenty four to seven you could see that this is probably like twenty five frames um so you know you know just that that that that and what you want to be is it really that difficult is make sure that their horizons you know tripod is better for this and I have ah uh um really write stuff bracket which is even better it just takes a little while to set it up and you know getting level but the really write stuff back and there's other brackets just you know you got the nodal point just right you got the you know level just right and then you can really be scientific about it kind of uh but you can see computed a high enough shutter speed and you're careful and you you you stop it every frame you stop before you move you know one of things I found myself doing is you know I'm shooting at a moving I'm shooting and you get a little blurry between them and so you've gotta settle in where is it with the tripod especially with those brackets you just basically you know it's a three hundred sixty degree dial on there and you could just click it you know to ten degrees or whatever and you're very methodical about it but you don't know when you have this kind of light that kind of guy so and you're aware what I do have a grid in my camera um which I put the grid on the horizon where what would be this horizon and so I'm very aware of that grid and keeping that grid level so uh you can see it's think it's level uh you know but ideally you would do that on a tripod no that was a once in a lifetime it wasn't moving I would have gotten the tripod and gotten the bracket and set it all up but uh uh I've made a lot of panoramic such panoramic without a tribe by that I've made huge prints he should've been high enough shutter speed five hundredth of a second and be careful you know do it slowly but they do make those brackets that air really slick if you when I when I do landscapes and I'd like wanted northeast that's what I used went to new england shot trees and things and that was a better way to do it the other questions here in the audience got a lot of things to talk about uh we have one from maja and three others wondering whether you use uv filters for protecting your lenses and also and d filters when you're shooting in this much light I don't use you used to use you view these filters or skylight filters to protect my lenses because that's what everybody told me to do but actually I realize that most of filters you know they cost way from thirty to one hundred dollars maybe for a good one they kept things like I've got us you know eight hundred dollars lands or three thousand dollar lands or twenty five hundred dollar lends a weapon by putting a piece of glass enter this fifty bucks I'm sorry that's not what most manufacturers would tell you including their hand or canada or anybody you know I mean that's great if you put you know filters on herself that I tend you know I just don't take the film I don't use filters other than the polite and that's but I've actually never scratched never scratch the lens badly because I'm always aware before that glasses you know if I put on my car seat or if I put my pack I mean it put len you know I put lens caps on when they pack him but I don't usually use landscapes I'm always looking to glass I have a spray bottle of glass cleaner and a cloth you know lost a classic dozens of closet is in somewhere staffed everywhere because I always lose him and uh but I'm always aware and if you have a lens shade on sun shade that actually you know really protects predicts it lends quite well and if you drop it more often not the len shade will break on uh so I don't know you know it would be people say oh you should have something on you to protect the land if you're careful that you don't need to and then you never have to worry about take off the cap you don't have to worry about the filter getting clean but he really anal and I'm not but if you're you know a lot of people are what they know but I have friends who do that I'm always get the picture in there fool around stupid way that's great what we were talking about stitching panorama is there are a lot of questions about what software is used its auto pano pro buy cooler so there you go lot of people were asking that um lots of different ways to do it but that's the one in particular that you're office uses yeah we use think petey gooey or something like that is a bunch of them but

Class Description

Short on time? This class is available HERE as a Fast Class, exclusively for Creator Pass subscribers.

Learn wildlife and outdoor photography from one of the most prolific nature photographers of our time in The Art of Wildlife Photography with Tom Mangelsen.

Drawing lessons from his 40 years of observing and photographing the Earth's last great wild places, Tom will discuss the complex process behind his breathtaking wildlife photographs. You’ll learn:

  • What it takes to be a great wildlife photographer
  • How to capture wildlife in their natural environment
  • The best places to find animals
  • How to increase the visibility of your work
  • The importance of respecting wildlife and wildlife ethics

Tom will cover the basics of gear and scouting and teach you how to think about lighting when capturing animals in the wild. Tom will also offer a critique images and portfolios submitted by viewers.

If you have a passion for outdoor photography and want to capture the spirit of wildlife in your camera, join Tom Mangelsen for this inspiring and educational class.


a Creativelive Student

There is probably just one word that comes closest to describing Tom Mangelsen’s photography. Glorious. There are other good words too, of course. And they are also inadequate. Mangelsen’s panoramas are (cumulatively and separately (any one of them)) the best I’ve seen. Mangelsen teaches by example and his examples are exemplary. I’ve seen several photographers giving courses on CreativeLive lately many of whose photos I would love to have taken - but with Mangelsen I envy his possession not just of his photos but of their subjects too. And he does possess his subjects in ways many outstanding photographers fail to - possesses them and then leaves them to continue on with their lives. There are other reasons I’m grateful for this course too - his field trips and critiques have shown me (as with other CreativeLive courses) just how lazy I’m being with my work. And if his critiques aren’t motivation enough I only have to view his slide show ‘Last Great Wild Places’ for more inspiration. The photos in this series are revelations all on their own - even without commentary. Thank you CreativeLive for continuing to bring us the finest wildlife and nature photographers at work today - and thank you to photographers like Tom Mangelsen for giving us a look at the way they work.


I could not stop watching this class and set aside time each day until I finished it. I guess you could saw that I binge watched it. Then I was really sad when it was finished! Like a good movie that stays with you and that you don't want to end! This is a wonderful class and the best I have taken at CreativeLive. I learned so much and have a great fondness for Tom Mangelsen. He really knows how to pull you into his passion. I am so grateful to have taken this course and grateful to Tom for all that he has done in his career to further his craft and to share it. I am inspired! If you are going to purchase and course from CreativeLive, this is one to be sure to take!!! Thank you again.

Dub Maitland

Excellent class! An incredibly talented photographer who has a vast knowledge of the subject matter as well as an outstanding ability to deliver the information. It was as enjoyable as it was informative. I first saw Tom's work in an office in Denver in 1991 and have been inspired by him ever since. Thank you Creative Live, for giving us the opportunity to spend this time with the Master! And thank you Tom for your willingness to share your talent with us! Dub Maitland, Missoula, MT.