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Animals in Their Environment: Composition

Lesson 6 from: FAST CLASS: The Art of Wildlife Photography

Tom Mangelsen

Animals in Their Environment: Composition

Lesson 6 from: FAST CLASS: The Art of Wildlife Photography

Tom Mangelsen

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Lesson Info

6. Animals in Their Environment: Composition

Next Lesson: Shutter Speed

Lesson Info

Animals in Their Environment: Composition

We're gonna go to some basic things. We've been through some pretty, more heavy things. 101 is usually we put the animal in the middle, and that's where the focal points usually are, so it's nice to get it out of the middle. That's kind of what we normally do, 'cause that's where our AO is or sometimes our auto-focus. And if you move it off to the edge, this is, you know, more interesting, same way with this. So you think about these, these are more interesting points for composition, again, 101 stuff. And this would be the same, similar kind of imagery. When I started, I was probably like most wildlife photographers, I was a buckhead photographer as I call them. I was trophy hunting, you know, trying to get the biggest bull moose, biggest bull elk, biggest bull deer, biggest mule deer, biggest ram. And then I realized it was like, you know, hunting trophies and put him on your wall and you might as well have shot the poor thing, you know? So I got over that, I thought, OK, that's been...

done. I did that, we all have to do that, we go through it, you know, got those record shots. And then I started thinking about animals in their environment, and that's what I kinda got more interested in. And their habitat, you know, where they live. And I spent, it was two summers, this owl nested in this hollow cottonwood, it's kind of a heart-shaped hollow. Actually when I first saw it the first year, I never got a picture of the adult with the chicks, the owlets. And I spent hours and hours or, again, this is five miles from my house, and I could go there in the morning and I could go there lunchtime, go there in the evening. But the adults only came in, really right at dark. And again, this is great with digital because it's like 6,400 ISO. Just little details about this, I've got a bunch of them where both of them are looking at the camera, I kind of like this little guy kind of hiding, you know, over there, and I like her stare. She would only land, feed, for seconds. Three, four, or five seconds. Then you had all this white sky over here so I kind of decided that's a problem, so I moved my tripod over a little bit to get less white sky, and then I'd use a really shallow depth of field, a 600 with a one four to blur that. So, and again, all these little things you really had to be very careful how to frame that. Otherwise this would be a problem and that would be a problem, so, again, you think about the little things and do it in the camera. And then we, obviously S curves are kind of 101 composition, interesting, and again, gestures of the bull and the foggy morning, which we talked about in the other session. And then these sort of radiating lines and upfront and close and backlit to show that great hair on the porcupine. And again, these sort of flowing lines are beautiful, leading your eye, and in rhythm and repetition, and gesture, of course, we've talked about already, but you can feel the wind or you can see the wind in the tail. And it was like nine, a family of nine elephants. We saw them crossing the Amboseli plain and drove about a mile ahead and just waited for them. But they were all strung out, but they saw our Jeep there and all of a sudden the matriarch said OK, everybody get in line. (laughs) Which was great, made the picture. And then sort of family portraits and the eye contact with these little guys is important. And she is, she's looking for prey, of course, in the Serengeti plain, watching for antelope. And, you know, the wide landscape, symmetry, obviously whenever you get reflections, that's beautiful. And then sometimes just the little things in the environment, you know, a little surprise, accents, this little malachite kingfisher, that's about life size, they're literally the size of a sparrow. And that was kinda my nemesis bird for years. I never got one. Finally in the Okavango River, I was canoeing, and I saw this, he landed in this papyrus, he was right there about 15 feet away. Again, they just (whooshes), they're always very quick. So that made me happy. And of course symmetry again, pattern. And again, you know, I've shot a lot of this kind of zebras and different animals together, but it's very precisely framed with the eye here and the eye there and the stripes. And so it, you really have to look carefully, you know, this is a certain amount of space but it's all out there, just looking for it. And then you just have these colors that work with the blues and yellows and the greens. A red tail hawk in the fall. And little splashes of blue with very little depth of field, shot with a 600 at probably a two-thousandth of a second. And we talked briefly about portrait versus animal and the landscape. And so you could start, you can, don't forget about real closeups. This is a black-browed albatross about 10 feet away with a 600 with a one four. All I wanted, it's such a beautiful eye, beautiful pattern. So when you're out there look closely at that sort of thing. This is with a 1200 millimeter, the 600 with the 2X. It gets right by, just quickly, in my gallery in Jackson, this guy walks in the gallery, and he's wheeling his elderly mother in a wheelchair. And she wants to be parked in front of this, it's a 30 by 50 there. And he goes off and looks at something else. And she yells to her son, said, "Johnny, come here, what is, is this a chicken or what?" (laughs) And of course, expressions, you know, portraits of heads, heads and shoulders. And backing off a little bit where you get a bit of the environment in there. So where does this animal live? And of course his gesture is important. And again, this is not a game, farm animal. You can tell this is a real deal. Wild wolf looking for his pack members. Owl I shot last fall in a big willow tree hunting. You can tell the intensity of the eyes, of course the eyes are the same colors as the leaves, and when you have that kind of thing that plays off of each other, it's golden, isn't it? (laughs) And then animals backing off further. Polar bears at Hudson Bay in the fall, waiting for the ice to freeze. Just wandering around on the ice, gives a sense of space. And this is more and more what we're gonna see with polar bears, I'm afraid. This is enormous, it's taken 15 years ago before it really started warming up more. But there's gonna be less and less ice and it's forming later, but. Symmetry with cranes at Bosque del Apache. Cranes are, again, just the shape of them are so wonderful. And then big landscapes with little, little things. These are, I think, Adelie penguins in Antarctica on a floating iceberg. Wild horses in Colorado. And of course that one, the moment is just this white horse with a tail. And of course the little bit of rain clouds there. And the moose in a big pond. It's a stitch panoramic. And this is the stuff I love, you know. Big landscape, little grizzly bear. Of course. Oh, a half a million King penguins or so with their young. A place called Salisbury Plain in South Georgia.

Class Materials

Bonus Materials with Purchase

Adorama Gear Guide
Elk Willows.mp4
Magic Hour.mp4
Last Great Wild Places.mp4

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