Try and remember the time when you first thought about doing wildlife photography, the first time you thought wow, if only I could shoot amazing wildlife photos. You went and asked people who were already doing it, and I am sure all of them told you the same story. If you want to get into wildlife photography, if you want to make amazing shots of wildlife, you need to have a super telephoto lens. You will have to buy at least a 400mm lens and beyond. You were excited, you went online, went to the shop and inquired how much it costs. In that moment, that very moment, it was as if someone sucked the air out of you. Those beautiful primes, those 400’s, 600’s and the 800’s, in that moment you realized they were way, way beyond your reach.
But today, I want to tell you exactly the opposite. Today I want you to think beyond what the conventional notions of wildlife photography are. I want to tell you how it’s very possible to shoot wildlife, not with a 400 or a 600 but with a 100mm. Today I want to give you 5 very compelling reasons to shoot wildlife with 100mm or less.
You can make environmental Portraits.
I stayed in Rishikesh, situated at the foothills of Himalaya for 5 days. Here, I and my friend Rajesh explored this beautiful place for wildlife. Peacocks are found in abundance in the Himalayan foothills, and the forests and the mountains in the distance were echoing with the calls of these majestic birds. This was the one specie we saw and shot the most. Since I was limited to only a 100mm, I was forced to think beyond what my conventional approach to wildlife has been. Instead of making portraits, I began looking for environmental portraits and habitats. In this particular shot, I love how majestic this peacock looks perched on that dried up tree.
You get creative
Some years back, I saw a video of Moose Peterson, a famous wildlife photographer from America, shoot an uncommon frame of a bird. Ever since then, I have developed a tendency to break the norm. In the above shot, I love how these dried up trees have formed a perfect trio. Intentionally, I fired the shutter when the bird was looking away from the frame, as opposed to in it. Sure, you can make an unconventional frame of wildlife using a super telephoto too, but without the habitat, I personally think, it’s just a portrait. By the way, did you know that a peacock can make 11 different calls?
You can show how moody the environment is
Due to winters, the early mornings were foggy, sometimes extremely foggy. The golden light, filtering through the fog made for a landscape that looked from a different universe. Even the most mundane of the subjects looked out of the ordinary in this light. The light, combined with the fog and the perch, made for such a beautiful shot of this majestic national bird of India.
Had it not been for the fog, I would never have made this shot of a Horse. His silhouette looks so mystical in this habitat. The tree on the extreme right, adds so much to the frame and balance it out.
You get innovative
Shooting with a 100mm, also forced me to change how I approach wildlife in the field. While with my 400mm I can shoot wildlife at comfortable distances, with the 100mm I had to adapt and improvise my techniques. Rajesh has been exploring these forests for around a year and he knows these lands like the back of his hand. When he saw this herd grazing in the distance, he was able to predict, very accurately the direction of their movement.
Trusting him, I positioned myself very close to this open patch, and prayed for them to cross. In less than 10 minutes, this Mother and Doe, crossed where I wanted them to. Limited only to 100 mm, I was forced to improvise and had to approach these deers at a distance that I have never done before. In the process I learned things which will help me approach wildlife in much better ways than before.
You tell a story.
The last morning of my stay, we did a safari in Rajaji tiger reserve. Although we did not spot and shoot any tigers or leopards, experiencing the reserve in the cold winter morning was ineffable. This Chital crossed right in-front of our jeep, and while I could not make a portrait of it, I loved how this image tells a story, of how bewitching the morning was, of how mesmerizing the forest was, and how angelic the whole experience was.
So shooting with a 100mm lens for sure did not get me the head shots and portrait shots. The shots where background melts like butter. But shooting with a 100mm kicked me out of my comfort zone. Shooting with a 100mm turned me into a story teller. A story of not only, how beautiful the mammal was, but also of how beautiful the whole environment was. Of how majestic that habitat looked with the wildlife in it. A story of how we have a moral obligation of protecting these ever declining habitats. These habitats, that rightfully belong to these majestic creatures, that have been overrun by our relentless greed.
If you haven’t tried it yet, I urge you to go and shoot with lenses that are so called “not enough” for shooting wildlife. I am sure you will have a blast and in the process become a better photographer. Most importantly you will become a person who will appreciate nature for the beauty it beholds.
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May the Himalaya bless you always. 🙂