Wildlife Photography ”Beyond the Perfect Portrait” by D. Robert Franz

Alaskan brown bear © D. Robert Franz

Alaskan brown bear © D. Robert Franz


Wildlife Photography ”Beyond the Perfect Portrait”

Text and Images by D. Robert Franz

For many aspiring wildlife photographers capturing beautiful portraits of their favorite birds or animals in the wild is often their primary goal. This is certainly an understandable and a worthwhile endeavor. When I began photographing wildlife over thirty years ago, I was inspired by the striking wildlife photos of Leonard Lee Rue III and Erwin Bauer. I carefully studied how they used the light, controlled backgrounds, and placed their subjects in the frame to create pleasing wildlife portraits. I pursued the perfect wildlife portrait relentlessly and over time accumulated a large collection of. As time passed I became less and less satisfied with my wildlife photography. I desired more evocative images with impact. I felt as though I really needed to elevate my images to a higher level. I will discuss some of the methods I’ve used to achieve that goal and continue in my evolution as a wildlife photographer.

Red Fox (Vulpes fulva) © D. Robert Franz

Red Fox (Vulpes fulva) © D. Robert Franz

A sure way to take your photography to a new level is to capture your subject in action and intense subject action can lead to a once in a lifetime photo. Capturing extreme subject action in still photography has never been easier. Most camera systems now have excellent autofocus capabilities which allow you to acquire focus of moving subjects. Modern digital cameras can now effectively utilize a higher ISO which allows you the ability to use high shutter speeds that were never before possible. Many cameras have frame rates of ten to twelve frames per second. This gives you the ability to capture the peak dramatic moments. Control of your shutter speed allows you to depict motion in a number of ways. Using a slower shutter speed can give your subject a bit of movement which helps depict motion whereas a high shutter speed will freeze everything. When the action starts fire away.

American elk or wapiti © D. Robert Franz

American elk or wapiti © D. Robert Franz

Dramatic weather also can lead to dramatic images. Falling snow, rain, fog and even wind driven sand can add interest to the wildlife image. Many photographers tend to avoid photographing in extreme conditions so when you capture images in such conditions they will be unique and that is highly desirable. Photographing wildlife when snow is falling is perhaps my favorite adverse environmental condition to work in. Dressing yourself as well as your cameras for the conditions allow you to work comfortably. There are some technical difficulties to overcome when the snow is falling. Autofocus becomes difficult. The heavier the snowfall the more likely the camera will attempt to focus on the falling snowflakes rather than your subject. I use a combination of autofocus and manual override of focus to achieve good results. Your camera will have a tendency to underexpose images during snowy conditions so using manual exposure or dialing in a plus compensation during auto exposure is required.

Exceptional light leads to exceptional images. The old adage of keeping the light source over your shoulder for a good photograph, while applicable in certain situations, is quite limiting. Most often now I try to capitalize on dramatic or unusual lighting situations. Today’s cameras allow me to get out earlier, stay out later and even photograph at night. Side lighting, backlighting, spotlighting and silhouettes are also great lighting techniques that help make your images stand out. The ability of today’s cameras to pull detail out of shadowed areas of an image while maintaining correct exposure on the highlights opens up many possibilities as well. With the advancements made in flash photography and the availability of infrared camera traps, never before seen behaviors and habits of nocturnal wildlife is another new and exciting genre of wildlife photography.

Mountain Lion in Yellowstone National Park © D. Robert Franz

Mountain Lion in Yellowstone National Park © D. Robert Franz

Spectacular surroundings will lead to spectacular images. Early in my career I used to adhere to the axiom of “less is more” in wildlife photography. I tried to isolate my subject from any distracting elements. While this is still a great approach for the perfect portrait I now find myself searching for a great animalscape. When you strategically compose wildlife in an already fine landscape image you create an image that will stand the test of time. These days I never go into the field without a second camera with a shorter lens attached, such as a 70-200mm, slung over my shoulder. You don’t want to miss a chance to capture a memorable animalscapes, as they don’t come around often.

Remember, always be looking for exceptional light and be ready for action. When it occurs take advantage of it. When the weather turns bad, wildlife photography can be good. Break out your camera and make the best of it. Find landscapes with wildlife in the scene to create memorable images. With this methodical approach to wildlife photography you can take your imagery to a new level.

Robert Franz has been a professional nature & wildlife photographer for over 25 years. With degrees in wildlife management and geology he has extensive knowledge of the natural world. During his productive career he’s published over ten thousand images and nearly two hundred magazine covers. In 2007 Digital Photography Magazine proclaimed Robert as one the worlds best wildlife photographers. Having a long standing love for the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem Robert and his wife Lorri moved to Cody Wyoming in 2003. For more information on his photo tours and nature photography visit





Nikon AF-S 600mm f/4E FL ED VR Lens Field Review by Aaron Baggenstos

Nikon AF-S 600mm f/4E FL ED VR Lens Field Review
Wildlife Photography in Alaska
By Aaron Baggenstos

I was recently given the opportunity to field test the new Nikon AF-S 600mm f/4E FL ED VR Lens in Alaska, one of my favorite places for wildlife photography and a place where I lead several photography tours each year.

I am extremely impressed with this lens. I’ve demonstrated a few of my favorite new features in the video review below including images, video, and time-lapse. Thank you for watching and I hope you enjoy this review.

About Aaron Baggenstos:


Aaron Baggenstos is an Award-winning professional wildlife photographer from Seattle, Washington. Aaron specializes in leading photography tours and workshops in Alaska, Yellowstone, and the Pacific Northwest including Canada.

His photographs have been recognized by National Geographic, Nature’s Best, and the Audubon Society. Most recently, thirteen of his images were chosen for the final round in the prestigious 2015 BBC Wildlife Photographer of the Year.

Aaron’s new limited edition coffee table book Pacific Northwest Wildlife is available at retailers ranging from Barnes & Noble to Costco and on His two previous books Wildlife of Juanita Bay and Wildlife of Lake Washington were instant regional bestsellers and all display Aaron’s awe-inspiring wildlife images.

In the Fall of 2011 Aaron co-hosted two episodes of the hit PBS television Series “Wild Photo Adventures” with Doug Gardner which aired internationally on PBS.

Along with guiding tours and instructing photography workshops over 100 days a year, Aaron also enjoys public speaking and presenting slideshows. To date he has spoken at multiple Audubon chapters and birding groups, National Wildlife Refuges, book stores, and other local interest groups.

Through his work Aaron hopes to inspire others to photograph, enjoy, and take action to protect, local and worldwide ecosystems.



Photographing the Unseen by Sebastian Kennerknecht

Malayan Porcupine © Sebastian Kennerknecht

Malayan Porcupine (Hystrix brachyura) at night, Tawau Hills Park, Sabah, Borneo, Malaysia © Sebastian Kennerknecht

Using SLR Camera Traps to Photograph the Unseen

Text and Images by Sebastian Kennerknecht

How do you photograph an animal so elusive that the biologists studying them have never even seen the species themselves? The answer is simple: SLR camera traps. Photographing wildlife with a camera trap seems easy in concept. Place a camera trap in the wilderness, let it sit there, and have it take amazing pictures while you relax at home. This isn’t quite the case. One of the hardest parts about camera trap photography is getting your set-up to work like you want it to. The camera and flashes have to be ready to take a picture at a moment’s notice, but it also needs to conserve batteries enough to last for an extended period of time. And then everything has to be safe in a serious down drench.  Read the rest of this entry »

Multi-flash Hummingbird Photography by Nate Chappell

A Sword-billed Hummingbird (left) and a Chestnut-breasted Coronet battle over a hummingbird feeder. © Nate Chappell

A Sword-billed Hummingbird (left) and a Chestnut-breasted Coronet battle over a hummingbird feeder. © Nate Chappell

Images and Text by Nate Chappell

Photographing hummingbirds in flight in countries like Ecuador and Costa Rica with natural light or with just one flash can be very difficult. The reason – most of these birds live in the cloud forest where there isn’t much light due to both shade from trees and cloud cover. One solution for this, which creates beautiful flight shots, is a multi-flash hummingbird setup. By setting up several slave flashes set to 1/32 or 1/16 power around a hummingbird feeder or flower you can produce stunning images of hummingbirds in flight. The reason is that the flashes are actually synching at speeds of 1/8000 to 1/12,000 of a second changing the effective shutter speed from what is on your camera – let’s say 1/200 sec to the lightning fast speed of the flashes synching. The key to this is having the flashes produce all of the light, otherwise you will be mixing ambient light and flash lighting. In that case the 1/200 sec shutter speed will affect the image by causing blurring in parts of it. So you need to have your camera’s exposure set to at least -3 or -4 stops below the ambient lighting.Another helpful component is to have an artificial background – often a large printed photograph held a few yards behind the mutli-flash setup. Read the rest of this entry »

Balancing Flash and Ambient Light by Charles Glatzer

Image by Charles Glatzer

Image by Charles Glatzer

Text and photographs by Charles Glatzer

When I hear someone say, “I hate flash images,” it typically tells me they feel uncomfortable or do not fully comprehend how to use flash effectively.  Many people state that they can always tell when flash is used as the images have a “flashed” look to them. By this they mean that the subject appears overly bright and unnaturally lit within the image. By applying varying levels of flash output, we are able control the degree of subject illumination independent of the ambient light. Keeping the flash and ambient exposure separate in your mind will help you better achieve your goal.

The image of the heron on the nest (above) is a good example of how I use flash to balance ambient light. Here are the steps I took to make this image using flash.

1. First, I used my in-camera spot meter to check the yellow background highlight and I set my exposure 1.3 stops above the mid tone (in this case, my exposure was 1/250 sec at f/8 at ISO 200).

2. Next, I focused my lens on the subject and read the distance scale on my lens (in this example, 10 ft). Since my flash was on the camera, the flash-to-subject distance was the same as the lens-to-subject distance (10 ft).


Where to check the focusing distance on your lens.

Where to check the focusing distance on your lens.

3. Then, I set my flash to manual mode, which allows me to control the flash output independent of the exposure. I used the Select button on the back of the flash, turning the dial to place the black bar even with the subject distance. (Note: Strobes will vary by manufacturer. Some use buttons, others wheels, or a combination of both to alter the flash output.) Altering the flash output moves the distance scale, and that is what you are concerned with at this point. Do not be concerned if the scale says 1:1 or 1/128. Just make sure the distance appearing on the scale (10 ft in this example) is the same as the focus distance on your lens (10 ft).


Where to look for the focusing distance on your flash.

A few examples of where to find the focusing distance on your flash. Flashes set to manual.

TIP: When you zoom to alter your lens focal length, the flash will also zoom to evenly illuminate the field of view. If you take a given quantity of light and squeeze it into a narrower or wider area, the output of the flash (known as the guide number) will vary. Thus, you will need to adjust the flash power each time you change the focal length of your lens. I suggest you manually fix the flash zoom to the widest focal length you plan on using. No worries if you are shooing a fixed lens.

If all other factors remain constant (f/stop. shutter speed, ISO and background illumination), both the background and the subject will be perfectly illuminated.

If you want to get a firm grasp on how to use flash effectively, consider taking Charles (Chas) Glatzer’s STL Tech Series Flash Seminar. Chas’ work has been celebrated internationally with over 40 prestigious awards for superior photographic competence demonstrated through photographic competition, advanced education, and service to the profession. His images are recognized internationally for their lighting, composition, and attention to detail and have appeared in many publications worldwide including National Geographic, Outdoor Photographer, Popular Photography, National Parks, Discover Diving, Smithsonian, Professional Photographer, Birder’s World, Birding, Nature Photographer, EOS, Digital PhotoPro, and many more.

Visit to learn more. 

Photographing the Nighttime Landscape by Roman Kurywczak

by Roman Kurywczak

night photo of Park Avenue, Arches National Park

Moonlit Night at Park Avenue, Arches National Park. Sigma 12-24mm lens @ 12mm, f/4.5, ISO 100, exposed for just over an hour. Photo by Roman M. Kurywczak

I have been photographing nighttime landscapes for about 20 years now, capturing images of star trails like the one pictured above with good success (even in the film days). The arrival of digital cameras and their high ISO capabilities has allowed me to push the boundaries of nighttime landscape photography and allowed me to capture the milky way and stars just as we see them. I released my e-book on that subject in February 2011 but wanted to revisit some of the images I had captured with the Sigma 12-24mm lens. The above image is the newest version of my cover shot, but this time the illumination you see is from just the moon. A rock solid tripod and ballhead are a must for this genre of photography. A wide-angle lens is also a must; the Sigma 12-24mm lens is now my lens of choice for my Canon 1D Mark III bodies. For those of you with crop sensors, the 10-20mm F3.5 EX DC HSM should be your go to lens, but keep in mind that any wide angle lens will work (Tip: you should be around 20mm max on a full frame sensor with the settings I will be providing). Read the rest of this entry »

NATURE’S VIEW: High Dynamic Range, The Natural Way, Story and photographs by Jim Clark

Marsh Landscape 05162014 Fishing Bay WMA MD (c) Jim Clark

Marsh Landscape, Fishing Bay Wildlife Management Area, Maryland

Or, why I never get to take an afternoon nap during my photo shoots

In the film days of yore, I always counted on an afternoon nap during my photo shoots on nice sunny days. The high contrast of a sunny afternoon proved too much for film to capture details in both the highlights and shadows. Since I didn’t want to shoot under those conditions, what else was I to do but check the inside of my eyelids?

Thanks to digital technology those napping times are over, but I can’t complain about this new digital stuff. The one advancement I love that has raised the playing field in nature photography is high dynamic range (HDR). Read the rest of this entry »

A Different Perspective . . . on wide-angle images, Story and photographs by Bernie Friel



The Panamint Mountains in Death Valley are reflected in the pond at Badwater. © Bernie Friel / A Different Perspective

As I was editing a batch of images from a shoot in Death Valley National Park, I had an uncomfortable feeling that even though the content was spot-on, some images were not as pleasing as I thought they would be when I shot them. The scene was just too vast, and the eye was distracted by the image composition.


What my eye had seen was a panoramic, but my DSLR did not capture that.








Read the rest of this entry »

More on Drones, by Bernie Friel

“Drones,” my article on the commercial use of drones for photography, appeared in the Fall 2013 issue of Currents. While at that time it seemed clear that such use was prohibited under existing FAA Advisory Circulars and Policy Statements, a recent decision (March 6, 2014) by an administrative law judge with the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) ruled that the FAA had not undertaken the required steps to give legal effect to those circulars and statements. Thus, at the moment there is no federal law, regulation, policy or circular prohibiting the use of drones.

The March decision involved a $10,000 fine imposed by the FAA on photographer Raphael Pirker who used a drone to film a commercial at the University of Virginia. While the FAA has repeatedly claimed that flying a drone for commercial purposes is illegal, this was the first and only time the agency had attempted to impose a fine.

For the moment, at least, there appears to be no prohibition on the commercial use of drones for any purpose, including, as one commentator noted, for “beer deliveries”—at least under federal law. But before you begin sending your drones skyward to indulge in a commercial or noncommercial photographic undertaking, be sure you check state and local laws. Many state legislatures and local governments have been considering laws to restrict their use, and some laws may already be in effect.

It is unclear just what the FAA will do next, but it is likely to appeal or establish an emergency rule to prohibit commercial use of drones until it can develop appropriate regulations covering such use as it has been directed to prepare by Congress.

Bernard Friel is a charter member and past president of NANPA who also served on the board of the NANPA Foundation. A retired lawyer, Bernie has been a serious nature photographer for more than 50 years.

Going mobile: The future of nature photography? by Jaymi Heimbuch

Midway Atoll, Photographed with an iPhone

Midway Atoll, Photographed with an iPhone

Going mobile: The future of nature photography? 

By Jaymi Heimbuch

Instagram and camera phone photos have inspired a lot of debate in the photography community. Why take a low quality image? You can’t print it large, you can’t sell it for stock, and it doesn’t showcase your skill with a camera. However, none of that is actually true anymore. As the popularity of iPhoneography and mobile phone photography rises alongside the capabilities of camera phones, not only are these points moot, but arguments supporting the use of mobile devices in professional photography are gaining ground. Camera phones and the social media platforms that allow us to quickly and easily share those images provide a greater freedom in story-telling, for bringing viewers along for the ride on a shoot, for engaging in conversation with viewers, and for showing more of the photographer’s personality. And now, all of this can be done without sacrificing much in quality.

In 2012 I took a trip to Midway Atoll and Instagram was a wonderful way to share the experience as it unfolded. My iPhone gave me the freedom to take snapshots on a whim, and uploading them to Instagram let me share what was happening as it happened. It was so easy, relaxing and fun to snap a photo in the moment, edit it and share it all with a single device. Those snapshots became my own diary of the trip and a way to remember the trip in a more personal way. I wouldn’t have had this diary if I’d stayed behind my DSLRs the whole time trying to get only polished, high-quality shots. And I could share what was going on with my followers on social media and generate excitement about the upcoming photo essays I was working on with the deliberate, high quality DSLR photos I was creating. Thus, my iPhone photos and Instagram held both a personal and professional purpose. It was the first time I’d really tried this approach, and it changed the way I have approached every photography trip since. Read the rest of this entry »

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