Thoughts on Photography & Useful References

Thoughts on Photography and Useful References

Most photographers will be aware of the rule of thirds often applied to  landscape photography. The following are thoughts, rather than rules, that may apply to photography in general and to nature photography in particular:
  1. Purchase the best quality equipment you can afford, remember camera bodies are for five or so years, quality lenses are for life. Good glass does make a difference. However world class images can be and are taken with modest equipment.
  2. Read the camera manual front to back (twice) before starting to play with the new pride and joy. Saves time in the long run. 
  3. Experiment; digital photography means you can try many different techniques without cost. 
  4. Be capable of operating the cameras controls without looking. Opportunities for photographing wildlife can be brief. Slow operating skills equal missed shots.
  5. Know your subject - Knowledge of the ecology of a subject will enable you to locate it and understand how it will behave once located. Success is 80% knowledge of the subject and 20% equipment.
  6. Animals have a distance safety zone, both as species and individuals. Cross into this zone and they will flee. Most individuals give clear signals that they are nervous before fleeing. Heeding these signals will increase photographic opportunities. 
  7. Blend in with the surroundings - Green and kaki clothing does make a difference. Portable hides and throw over hides are commercially available but these can be very uncomfortable in a tropical climate. Maximise the surrounding vegetation and cover to camouflage your presence.
  8. Stalking - Careful stalking can get you surprisingly close to some subjects, it is a patient art and it helps if you were a hunter during your miss spent youth.
  9.  Sit quietly and wait - Take a chair (green of course) into the forest, sit and wait. Choose a location of known bird activity or near a food source or water. It is remarkable how quickly some birds will treat you as a part of the environment and come within lens range.
  10. On lenses - The minimum focal length for much wildlife photography is 400 mm. A cropped sensor camera will get you up to x 1.6 closer. A x 1.4 or x 2 extender will get you lot closer but be aware you will lose image quality and F stops. In addition unless you have a very expensive high end camera you will also lose autofocus, making birds in flight very difficult targets. High quality fixed focal length lenses of 500 mm and more are available but beyond the budgets of many amateur photographers. For arthropods, most reptiles and amphibians and plants a 100 mm macro lens is ideal. Good quality compact or bridge cameras are also useful when weight is an issue in accessing remote locations. 
  11. Unless you very confident with your exposures always shot in RAW, post processing to correct errors is very limited with JPEG images. Having said that the goal should always be to achieve correct exposure and composition in the camera.
  12. A clean background can make an average shot look excellent and vice versa with a cluttered background.
  13. Focus on the eyes - If eyes are in sharp focus other imperfections may go unnoticed.
  14. The lens or (I am not ready) cap - Protecting your expensive lens is important but wildlife does not wait for you to take a camera out of a bag and remove the lens cap. Use a UV filter and lens hood for protection.
  15. Use a car as a hide - Very useful in some circumstances. A cushion or bean bag can be used as a prop on the open window.
  16. Landscapes - Current wisdom is that landscapes are only valid when taken at dawn or dusk. Personally I also like landscapes taken in strong light with saturated colour. If you are shooting landscapes in low light you will need to marry your tripod and remote shutter release. Neutral Density Graduated Filters or High Dynamic Range software will significantly improve results.
  17. The X factor or in Australian terms "shear bloody luck". Good fortune can be a significant factor in photography, whether it be 30 seconds of amazing light at sunset or a rare bird perching within lens range. To take advantage of rare opportunities the basic skills must be mastered.

Useful References
Pizzey,G & Knight F,
The Graham Pizzey and Frank Knight Field Guide to the Birds of Australia (Ninth Edition), Angus and Robinson.
Wieneke, J.
Where to find Birds in North-East Queensland, published by Jo Wieneke.

Parish, S.
Bird Photography, (A Wild Australia Guide)
Steve Parish Publishing.

Dolby, T. & Clarke, R.
Finding Australian Birds, (A field guide to birding locations), CSIRO Publishing.
Cogger, H.G.
Reptiles and Amphibians of Australia, New Holland. Given the taxonomy of reptiles and amphibians frequently changes, the latest edition is recommended.
Tyler, M.J. & Knight, F.
Field Guide to the Frogs of Australia, Reed New Holland.
Brady, M. F.
The Complete Field Guide to Butterflies of Australia, CSIRO Publishing.
The Australian Museum,
Complete Book of Australian Mammals, Edited by Ronald Strahan, Angus & Robinson.
Beasley, J.
Plants of Tropical North Queensland, Footloose Publications, Kuranda.
Beasley, J.
Plants of Cape York, Footloose Publications, Kuranda.   
CD Australian Frog Calls Tropical North-East,
Nature Sound – David Stewart
CD Australian Bird Calls Tropical North-East,
Nature Sound – David Stewart

Useful Websites

Birds Australia:

Daintree Birdwatching Bulletin:

Loyd Nielsen's

Daintree Boatman
Highly recommended for the serious birder or photographer.

 Daintree River Cruise

Rose Gums Wilderness Retreat. Excellent accommodation. Extensive walks through private rainforest provides many opportunities to view wildlife. Ideal base to explore the Northern Tablelands. (Highly recommended).