One of the most arresting arts in the world is wildlife photography. It has the ability to captivate us and make us stop thinking about anything else for some time. A proper wildlife photographer can make us step back, and exclaim, “WOW.” However, a sobering thought often follows that moment of amazement – that we could never take a picture like that. On the contrary, those who have a little more confidence would think that they could if they had proper equipment.
However, neither of the views are exactly true says Jens Cullmann. He is the one who captured the image of the crocodile peeking out of the mud. The picture was awarded the best photograph in the category of Other Animals. The contest was the 2020 Nature Photographer for the year, hosted by the Nature Photography Society of Germany. The experienced wildlife photographer says that the most important thing for a good capture is time.
The Wildlife Photographer’s Secret
Cullmann says people ask him about the essential aspect of a successful wildlife photographer. He always replies that it is patience and practice. He had to spend two months in a National Park in Zimbabwe named Mana Pool. However, he had started learning about the wildlife there from a much earlier time. His first visit was nearly 10 years ago. Since then he has returned to the place every few months or weeks.
Cullmann explains that a successful photographer both appreciates the wildlife and has an intimate understanding of the subject and the habitat. He says that animals are similar to any other subjects like humans and landscapes. Wildlife photographers have to be able to read their behavior and habits.
After spending over ten years with the place, there is very little Cullmann does not know about Mana Pools. He knows the hunting areas of the different species and how the change in their behavior brought about by climate change. Of course, he also has some close encounters with the animals.
This particular shot was captured in the last few days of Zimbabwe’s last dry season. He explains that it is easier for wildlife photographers during this period since animals usually come together and gather around watering holes. Moreover, the ground is cleared of tall grass as well.
This particular crocodile co-operated a lot with the wildlife photographer. It had remained comparatively still as the camera was working at a distance of about 20 feet.
Wildlife Photography Is Not All Fun
In other situations, the distance has been much less. In the dry season especially, many animals get stuck in the mud and need help. Cullmann has quite a few pictures like this. Once, he was trying to save a monkey that was both stuck and in the sights of a hippopotamus. Cullmann recounts that he had first tried to chase away the hippopotamus. But when he went to help the monkey, the hippo charged towards him! He says that was one of the more alarming moments of being a wildlife photographer.
Apparently, wildlife photographers would need to be a bit courageous as well, especially if they are walking among animals. Cullmann acknowledges such risks and says that proper equipment will reduce the need to close the gap too. He uses an EOS-1D X from Canon along with a high-powered zoom lens. He adds that for wildlife photographers, their chosen lens is important to reach their full potential.
The photographer’s eye determines which frame is the right one or which picture tells the best story. However, the camera has to be decent as well, Cullmann adds.
For anyone who has been inspired by the tale, a significant part of wildlife photography is knowing the equipment and the craft. Practice with whatever camera you have on whatever subject you find interesting, first!