Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Book Review: 100 Ways to take better Nature & Wildlife Photographs

I recently finsihed working my way through Guy Edwardes' 100 Ways to take better Nature & Wildlife Photographs and I learned a lot from it. Such as I need to buy more gear :).  The editors of this book were very smart to put the photo on the cover that they did. This is exactly the type of photo I want to take so as soon as I saw the cover I was sold. The book could have been complete rubbish and I still would have bought it. Fortunately the book is far from rubbish. The book is about 90% photo hints and tips and about 10% post processing which is fine with me. I probably underprocess my images but I'd rather spend my time out shooting than sitting behind a computer tweaking an image to the inth degree.

Here's some things I'll be adding to my equipment to buy list and reason for adding them:

1 - Small handheld mirror -- for checking my look, you know I want to look nice for the critters :). Seriously though this is so I can reflect light onto a subject if it's not evenly lit.

2 - Extension tubes -- to allow for closer focusing distances with telephoto lenses.

3 - Small foldable reflectors - to serve the same purpose as #1 but to do so with different lighting.

4 - 1.4x extender - to give me extra reach.  This is probably the first thing I will buy. I can use it with my EF-200 2.8 to give me an EF 280 f/4 which is pretty close to the 300mm focal length that's pretty popular for nature photography.

5 - Battery grip - I've used them with my Rebel XT, 40D and 5D and just need to buy one for the 7D.

I'm sure there's other things I'd like to add to the list but that's plenty for now :).

I really liked the format of the book. For each tip the author described it in detail and provided a photo sample that was taken using the tip. He also included exposure information for each photo included in the book. For me this is a big help. I realize that every shot is going to have its own unique requirements but being able to see what the photographer used to get that particular shot at least gives me a starting point to work from.

A couple of things I learned from it that I've been experimenting with include manually selecting a single focus point instead of using all 19 or any of the focus zones available on the 7D and to slow down and think about the shot before pressing the shutter. Sure I'll still use spray and pray for birds in flight but for static subjects I'm spending more time composing the shot than I have in the past. I suppose another lesson I learned is to just slow down, take it easy and enjoy the environment (which I'll admit can be tough to do when there's gnats or misquitos flying about).

Regarding the cover photo that sold me on the book. That's a Black-tailed Godwit and was photographed in Texel, Holland using a Canon 1DS, EF 500 with 1.4x extender. 1/500th at f/8, ISO 250.

Below is a link for the book on Amazon. If you use it to buy the book I'll earn a small commission and you'll learn 100 ways to improve your nature and wildlife photos.


  1. Interesting, I'll have to take a look at this book. The suggestions you posted likewise bear some thinking. The 1.4 extender is a great idea, and hopefully I'll have one myself in about a month. It should be great for those times when 300mm just isn't enough.

    I'm curious about the battery grip for the 7D however - what was the author's logic behind that? I ask because I seem to get about 900 frames per battery, which works out to several days of use per charge for me. I've got two batteries and have yet to worry about running out of power. The grip, on the other hand, adds a significant amount of size and mass to the camera. Just curious what the counter-acting benefit is?

    One final thought: all the gear in the world sometimes isn't enough. The tip that I'd put at the top of any wildlife photography list is patience. Very often the shot we want will come, we just have to settle in and wait for it.

  2. Regarding the 1.4 extender - I've been watching them on B&H and the price recently dropped from 309 to 299. It may not mean anything but I did see a post on Canon Rumors about Canon doing extender testing at the World Cup. Perhaps something new will be out soon?? I am really starting to lust over the 300 f/4IS now. You're the 3rd photographer I know that has one and I've heard nothing but good things about that lens.

    Battery grips aren't specifically mentioned in the book but I'd like to have one for the extra controls that are readily available when shooting in a vertical orientation. If you just used it for the shuuter release you can accomplish the same thing for a whole lot less by using a remote shutter release (which is one thing the author does use quite often along with mirror lockup). You are right about the battery life on the 7D is it excellent so really the benefit of the grip is an additional shutter release button and control wheel to change some camera settings. The extra weight of a battery grip is a valid concern. As it is now I have to slide my camera/lens pretty far forward when using it on the GHBA Gimbal Head. If I added a battery grip I'd probably have to get another extra, extra long plate so I could slide the camera/lens even further forward. I 'spose truth be told the grip is more of a want than a need as I have a remote shutter release so I can just use that for now if I plan to do a bunch of vertical shots.

    Amen about patience. Having learned to hunt while growing up that experience taught me that you have to have patience so I have no problem settling in and waiting for the shot. Sometimes it comes and sometimes it doesn't but that's part of the game.