Natural light is without a doubt one of the strongest elements to a good wildlife image.
It is also often one of the hardest elements to get right when it comes to wildlife photography. When dealing with animals in their natural environment, having all the elements required to make for a strong wildlife image, can be quite tricky - not to mention largely out of our control.
It may seem obvious, but having wildlife in good natural light is what every photographer dreams of. This does not mean that you cannot create good images with little light, but some aspects can often be lacking when you don't have good natural light.
One thing that needs to be remembered is, for the vast majority of the time, predators in particular are mostly active during the early morning and late evening hours, usually going into the evening and throughout the night. Most of these predators would use the majority of the day to rest, saving up their energy for later.
So how do you capture wildlife in good light? Simple answer, patience, patience, patience and well an element of luck as well.
Some elements are definitely in your control, such as leaving the camp as early in morning as you possibly can, giving yourself maximum opportunity to find a subject before the light is at it's best. I personally like doing the same in the afternoon, leave camp early, find your subject and then patiently wait until the light is at its best.
Of course, dealing with wild animals, and with nature in general, nothing is guaranteed and on numerous occasions I can recall having amazing light, but either having no subject to photograph, or having a subject that is not intent on moving or doing what you would like it to do. This is out of your control! All you can do is stack the odds in your favour.
Some challenges you might have photographing in harsh light conditions.
- Battling with highlights and shadows during the late morning and early afternoon.
- Little or no light in the eyes (something that is very important in wildlife)
- Loss of colours
Once again, it does not mean that you cannot create good, solid wildlife images when the light is bad.
One of the major issues with photographing in harsh or low light, is we often try and force the issue. We try and overcompensate in our post processing to give a "golden effect" on our images, when naturally it wasn't there in the first place.
It is important to understand, that nothing beats natural light and the effect the show on your images.
Some benefits of photographing in great light.
- Little to no highlights and shadows to worry about. Overcast days can often be fantastic in this regard.
- Light in the eyes of your subject. Best times usually being sunrise and sunset.
- Beautiful colours, especially during the golden hour.
So next time when you are out in the field, try and maximise your opportunities and put the odds in your favour. When the light is not at it's best, don't force the issue. Enjoy your sighting, put your camera down every now and then, and wait for the light and your subject to show off their beauty.
Till next time...