1. Baseline Your Camera and Gear Settings for Each Outing. Here is what I mean, every piece of equipment you use have your "favorite" settings at the ready. For example, Once I am on locations I set my DSLR to Manual (M) mode and adjust the ISO based on the lens I have decided to use and the available lighting, then set the lens aperture. -- If I need to temporary change camera settings for a shot - like dialing in compensation; always go back to your baseline settings - remove any exposure compensations, or mode changes, such as setting the camera to manual mode for a tough lighting shoot. Make it a habit, return your camera to the base settings. Worst situation is a perfect shot and your camera is incorrectly set and you have seconds to get the shot. If your camera is back to the base setting ISO in A mode you just may get a useable photo.
2. Air Your Gear Out Prior to Arriving on Site: This means when moving your gear from a controlled environment to a cold/hot/ humid environment having temperature variations - give your gear time to stabilize. Nothing worse than fog or condensed moisture on the lens or camera viewfinder. It may be as simple as rolling your window down about 15 minutes prior to arriving on site and you might as well get yourself acclimatize too. The problem manifest itself when your in your nice Air Conditioned house/car and you pick up your camera bag to go out to catch the brewing storm, in the humid hot air - as soon as that cold camera and lens comes out - oh well. Turn off that A/C and let the gear equalize to the air temperature.
3. Get Your White Balance Correct: This may sound complex but could be very easy - every camera has the auto WB mode and works perfectly in most situations. But, if your deep into a forest with filtered light you probably will have a green cast to all your images. Know how to manually set your WB to match your environment. Or do like I do and carry an X-Rite Color Checker and take a snap of it in the lighting you will be shooting in. When you get back home import the color checker into Lightroom for proper color balance. I highly recommed every photographer get an X-Rite Color Checker.
4. Do The Chameleon: This simply means keep your eyes moving in all directions, I have learned in my years that scanning your environment will eventually bring you photographic rewards and having walked past an area only to realize as it was too late an animal or bird was close by and while I was busy trying to find the trees in the forest as they say the animal spotted me an took off. Another time after using my own advice I was looking up in the trees scanning for birds, when just as I was about to move off I looked over my shoulder and out on the tree sat a Bald Eagle. I would have missed this shot had I not did a second scan prior to moving off - and it paid off with at least one usable photo.
5. Be Sneaky: I can't count number of images missed by not being sneaky. Quite! Slow careful steps into new areas. I was recently out and clumsily moved through an area and saw two Egrets as they saw me no further than 20 feet and both flew off, another missed opportunity. Strolling down the trail and came upon a black bear - he seen me before I saw him and another lesson learned as I watched him bound off. Most recently, ran across a group of wild turkeys but I was just too loud bumbling down the trail, I got one shot off because - I was not prepared and they heard me before I heard them. GET SNEAKY. Move quietly, and listen! One other thing and it may sound odd, don’t make eye contact. If you do happen to sneak up try not to look directly in to the animals eyes, and seem more approachable if you don’t stare them down. Wear Camo it actually works.
6. Patience Please: If your just walking and gunning - good luck. There are many strategies for obtaining better photos and sometime you are lucky, true. But, what works for me is I try to find a good location with cover and opportunity. Birds love to forage for food, those fruiting trees and bushes offer great spots for little creatures. Just get set up and wait them out! It may take 15 - 20 minutes before the critters forget about you and return for their snacks. While waiting you would have taken a few test shots for exposure - right?
7. Wear the Right Clothes: People think I am nuts when they see me out with my camo clothes with my matching camo camera equipment. What I mean is wear the right clothes that match the environment you will be working in. You don't have to wear a bush - I have first-hand experience and witnessed in person on more than one occasion that camo does help. I have been in out my camo clothes, with my camera and tripod in wrapped in camo as well standing off the trail, and had animals and birds walk and fly right up to me. As long as you are still, quite as possible & downwind you now have an advantage a big advantage. You gotta wear something - why not some camo? Use common sense, in summer pick out the light tans and greens to keep the heat absorption down.
|X-Rite Color Checker