Three Hours at Pulau Ubin

Today, I bring you a bit of wildlife photography from Pulau Ubin, an island just off of Singapore. You might recognise this as the place at which I made the last GigaPan. I undertook this particular trip with an uncle of mine who often goes there doing bird photography. He’s got some amazing stuff, and you can check him out at http://www.flickr.com/photos/kaybsteve/.

Wild boar, one of a family of four. Apparently, they like to show up when there are people around. Mostly because they tend to get free food.

So, I learned some things about wildlife photography. The first will come as no surprise to anyone – a tripod is indispensable. My tripod was sitting at home in a corner a few hundred kilometres away, so I was using a borrowed WeiFeng tripod. Although nowhere near as steady as my Giottos, it provided much needed stability for taking many of my photos that day. You can compare the two hornbill photos in this post to get an idea of the difference shooting with a tripod makes.

Hornbill. Not the sharpest of photos, being a handheld 300mm shot. Looking at it again... I think the focus point is actually off as well. Erk.

Another thing I learned, and this one is not just confined to wildlife photography, is that the difference between 300mm and 400mm is quite significant, and can make a massive difference when it comes to getting close to your subject. Normally, I would have said that 300mm would be sufficient, and that getting closer would be a simple matter of just walking to a closer spot to your subject. However, especially when photographing birds (and come to think of it, sports) there are times when getting closer to your subject is not an option, because you are physically not capable of doing so. In those cases, the extra 100mm of focal length really helps a lot. You can see this for yourself by comparing my photos here with those on the Flickr page mentioned above.

This one is much better, though. Epic eyelash detail FTW. This photo was taken with the tripod attached. I doubt I would have been able to get it as sharp as it is without it.

Finally, when doing photography of this type, there are two other very useful pieces of gear to have. The first is a flashgun with a flash extender, and the other is a remote shutter release. While the remote shutter release isn’t strictly necessary since you can also eliminate hand-related camera shake by sticking your camera on a tripod and putting it on a timer, it is very helpful. This is mostly due to time constraints – a bird or animal will not always sit in one spot and patiently wait to get its photo taken, and it can be frustrating to have to wait for your timer to go off before you take the next photo.

In the case of the flashgun and extender, the advantages are threefold. The first and most obvious is the benefit of increased shutter speed, since the flash will provide more light. The second is that shadows are common, especially when taking photos of animals in trees from below. Having a flash on hand will help eliminate these shadows, and even out the lighting. As you can probably see, I didn’t have mine at the time and wish I had brought it along. The third is mostly bird related, and has to do with bringing out detail. Because the flash is directed light, it causes the fibres of bird feathers to casts small shadows, bringing out their shape, emphasizing the finer details. Again, you can compare the photos in this post to those on the Flickr page to see the difference.

Sunset lighting is always awesome.

I’ve been busy, so posts have been coming up fairly sparsely of late. However, I will try to get a trip in to a butterfly park or Putrajaya. If I do, expect to see some colourful butterfly macro or architectural photos in the next week and a half or so. Have a good weekend, and check back soon. đŸ™‚

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