I remember clearly when I started getting more serious with wildlife photography about four, five years ago. I called it success if I found a particular critter and made a few clicks, no matter how far the animal was away. The mission was accomplished if the photo was sharp, or at least kinda sharp… ;-) Some time and many shots later this wasn’t enough anymore and it became my goal to fill the frame without cropping the photo. That still doesn’t always happen but it is something I try to work on all the time while out in the field. I’m not an eyeball photographer, I’m more interested in an environmental portrait of the critter, but getting physically close is important for both ways of shooting. 

So what’s the next step in order to improve? For me, it is going after a particular gesture that can make the difference between just showing the beauty of an animal and having a story telling aspect in the photo, maybe about its behavior. The good thing is, this leaves room for improvement forever… :-

All images: Nikon D300s, Sigma 50-500mm / f4.5-6.3 APO DG HSM

Let’s look at the two photos of Sandhill Cranes. Both show the birds in their natural environment, the fields that are part of the wetlands, and that are soaked with water from the snow melt. I like the second picture because of it’s warm light, just a little bit before sunset. It shows the elegance of the crane as it walks and looks out for food. However, the first photo is my favorite. The turn of the head is the gesture I was after. It tells the story about the crane standing on guard for any danger that may appear, while its mate was feeding. Most of the photos from that evening show both cranes feeding or walking, but it was that brief moment that made the difference for me.