One of the main ways I have amended my photography style over the past year or so, is to recognise that it’s beneficial to photograph the animal in its habitat. Now this sounds a ridiculously obvious thing to say but trust me, the first time you get your hands on a 400mm zoom lens you become tempted to zoom in fully and photograph the finer detail on the animal, often disregarding the environment its in. In fact, one of the very first challenges I set myself with my first DSLR was to photograph animal eyes – ideally capturing my own reflection in the catchlight.
Conversely, having use of an f2.8 wide angle lens then switched my obsession toward bokeh, blurring the background so the animal becomes the primary focus.
Now, after years of experimentation, I am enjoying a nice mix of both techniques – always striving to get the animal sharp, but ensuring that the environment they are in is captured in the shot. I am finding this works equally as well in captive and wild environments – it can add drama to an image and help strengthen the story of the photo.
The image above is one of our recent successes – A spider monkey splays its body across a fern-like tree, making it difficult to work out which limb is which. It’s a perfect example of an animal in its environment …imagine the shot without the trees and the colour – a more traditional portrait shot would not provide any sense of place, purpose or behaviour. It’s spurred me on to try and capture similar shots in the future.
..watch this space.