SNAPSHOT: WILDLIFE PHOTOGRAPHY WITH TESNI WARD
Olympus Ambassador Tesni Ward shares her recommended kit and techniques for wildlife photography, and how she prepares…
Whilst I may have dreamt of becoming a full-time photographer, it was just that: an unreachable dream that very few people ever successfully achieved. The position I was put in was the catalyst I needed to give it my best shot, pardon the pun. As I’ve never had any formal training or attended any courses on photography, my knowledge and style have evolved through making mistakes and learning from them. Photography has also enhanced my appreciation of wildlife – it’s hard to not get immersed in their world.
With wildlife photography, I believe the welfare of the animal must always come first – if capturing a great image will be to the detriment of the animal, find another way to get it. With this in mind, the first stages of any project are more often than not the most important, and involve a lot of work and research behind the scenes. Where is there potential for finding a certain species? What do I need to know about the animal, its behaviour and habits beforehand? What is the forecast for the day(s) I plan on being there? Are there any risks or precautions I need to take? Does the animal have legal protection that I need to be aware of? Understanding all these points will increase the chances of me finding and successfully photographing the animal in question. Sometimes the answers are easy to come by, but sometimes they take longer to crack.
You’ll find me using the Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II with the M.Zuiko 300mm F4 attached, for 95% of the time. However, there’s always the scope for different lenses depending on the style of image I’m eager to achieve, and I try and take a range with me wherever I go. If there’s the chance that I might get closer, making the animal fill more of the frame, or I want to include more of the habitat in my images, I’ll opt for the 40-150mm F2.8, 12-40mm F2.8 or 7-14mm F2.8.
If it’s my first visit to a new site, I will often spend more time assessing the area and trying to identify where there’s potential rather than moving straight into taking pictures. What angle will be best for the light? Where will the animal likely appear? Where can I sit/lie to ensure the animal doesn’t notice me? If appropriate, the behaviour and temperament of the animal will dictate how, if and when I approach, but my approach is always cautious and slow, usually taking over an hour to move into the best position. Using the silent shutter on the OM-D E-M1 Mark II allows me to almost eliminate any noise coming from me, and wearing clothes that match my surroundings can help even further.