Nature and Wildlife Photographer George Dangerfield

Canon EOS 20D, Canon 300mm f/4 L USM, Canon 1.4x extender, tripod, mirror lock-up, TC-80N3 remote controller, 1/13 sec, F/16, ISO 200

Canon EOS 20D, Canon 300mm f/4 L USM, Canon 1.4x extender, tripod, mirror lock-up, TC-80N3 remote controller, 1/13 sec, F/16, ISO 200

With a simple elegance, George Dangerfield, captures nature and wildlife at its essence. Usually attacking a single subject in each frame, he uses simplistic composition and color to leave each image well composed and uncluttered. Paying close attention to backgrounds and placement, Dangerfield has a knack for drawing the viewers eye directly to the insect, bird, or amphibian of his choosing, and holding their attention throughout the frame of each photo.

Most of Dangerfield’s photos are macro images and are close to representative of the real life size of the subjects that he chooses to photograph in nature. The best representatives of the skill of Dangerfield’s ability to work within macro photography are his images of insects.

You can find his work here on Photoblink

In the above image, Dangerfield has captured a bee hard at work amongst the tender center of a flower. The shimmering translucence of the bees wings work well to compliment and absorb the tender pinks and greens of the flower’s color. The image is so crisp and sharp that each tiny hair of the bee’s legs can be seen.

Macro photography such as this is a hard learned skill requiring time and patience to perfect. Not only is the technical aspect of choosing the right aperature and distance of prime importance, but the sheer patience involved in finding the insect and waiting for the right moment to click the shutter is a challenge in itself. In hopes of not scaring the insect into flight and out of the frame before the image is made, a quiet and peaceful approach to this type of photography is one of the main requirements.

Macro photography:

In macro photography equipment is an important consideration. The use of a macro lens is essential. A macro lens has a long barrel and is designed for close focusing. Macro lenses are created to achieve extreme magnification.

Lengths of lenses for macro photography:

  1. 50–60mm range typically used for product photography and small objects
  2. 90–105mm range the standard focal range used for insects, flowers, small objects
  3. 150–200mm range gives more working distance — typically used for insects and small animals

Extension tubes are also available for macro photography. Extension tubes are added on to existing lenses in order to increase the focal length of the lens. Lenses and diopters are used to achieve stronger optical power. Another effective way is to use a teleconverter. Keep in mind that when adding on to any existing lenses, exposure compensation may be necessary.

Dangerfield also uses various compositional style and design elements within his photography in order to enhance the visual interest of his images.

Here is one for example

In this seemingly simple image of a frog, there is more to the visual picture than originally meets the viewer’s eyes. The frog is symmetrically balanced not only with its placement in the frame, but also by using the compositional element of the frog’s reflection in the water. It seems as if either Dangerfield was overtly cautious as to his position while taking the photograph, or else by using a polarizing filter, he was able to minimize the reflection on parts of the water so that even though a full mirrored reflection is visible, there is also still a great detail in seeing the frogs feet pressed firmly on the lily pad while sitting there.

Using a just shallow enough depth of field, Dangerfield was able to separate the frog away from the background and allow him the depth to visually pop from the frame. This technique of carefully selecting the proper aperture allows the image just enough depth and contrast to keep this monochromatic frog in a pond enough space for visual interest.

With such a strong symmetrical composition and essential use of the monochromatic color space, the subtle differences of the yellow, green, and brown tones of the frogs tones seem nearly contrasting instead of close and muddled. The effective reflections and shimmering light of the wet frog and the water help to create that subtle contrast of color and light.

Choosing aperture:

Given the subject, often with nature photography lenses in the range of 400 mm to 600 mm are used to achieve a tight frame and a shallow depth of field. Another important consideration is to choose the proper aperture for the desired effect.

Depth of field increases as a smaller aperture is used but this also keeps less light from passing through the lens. This loss of light often results in needing a longer shutter speed in order to attain proper exposure. With nature photography, time is often of the essence and with the extra time often means extra movement.

It is important to consider what the desired effect of your image is before deciding on aperture and shutter speed combination. Whether you would like less depth of field or to freeze the motion of the image, is important to know while making these decisions. Often it is a trade off between depth of field and freezing motion.

Consider using your camera’s depth of field preview button if it is available while you are still learning what to expect from various apertures. Also you should remember that the ISO you choose will also allow you more possibilities from each frame.

This image of a cat’s eyes shows Dangerfield’s ability to control exposure and to maintain complete control of highlights and shadows. Often when photographing animals with black fur, one of the most difficult challenges is to keep details in the blacks and allow an object that is seemingly black all over to have depth and tonal range.

In his image of the cat, you can see the ever so slight highlights all over the cat’s fur and an image that could easily be flat and muddled is crisp with detail and definition. The resulting image is a cat with an apparently shiny and healthy coat of black lush fur.

Maintaining shadow control:

In order to maintain detail in the shadows or darker images, careful attention must be payed to controlling your exposures. Often an image should be overexposed a bit for the shadows in order to keep them from going to solid black.

Learn more about your camera and the possibility of using your digital SLRs histogram functions. You can then monitor both your highlights and your shadows while ensuring that the mid-tones stay within range. Don’t rely on your monitor for viewing as often the small details are not accurately represented. Another option is to consider shooting in raw so that you can have more exposure and tonal range control in your post processing out of camera.

By looking at the work of Dangerfield and other nature photographers of his caliber we can pick up on the importance of attention to detail and stillness within our photography. It is important to find images that attract your attention and study what it is about those images that make them stand out from the rest. Through this studying we can learn new techniques and ideas that we can all carry forward into our own photography.

Photo and article contributed by René Edde

About rosered

My Name is Ali Sadr and I am behind IDP. I am a Wildlife Explorer & Adventure Photographer. I always research to find innovative ways to use photography gear and techniques used by famous professional photographers. Here I will share my findings. You can learn from their gear and techniques to hone your skills.

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