Monday, September 10, 2012

Today's Guest Blogger: Laurie Rubin

Today's Guest Blogger is my friend and talented and dedicated wildlife photographer Laurie Rubin. 

Take it away, Laurie!

Be Ready, Get Set, and Capture the Moment!
Wildlife Photography Tips
by Laurie Rubin (

There is a creative fraction of a second when you are taking a picture. Your eye must see a composition or an expression that life itself offers you, and you must know with intuition when to click the camera.”  – Henri Cartier-Bresson

My passion is wildlife photography.  I believe that when we have a connection with the subject that we are photographing, whether it is people, landscapes, animals, flowers, etc., it will show in our images. I try to capture the behavioral moments of animals rather then just getting a snapshot of them standing or sleeping. This adds more interest to the image and tells a story that will hopefully draw the viewer in.

Here are a few tips that have helped me along my journey when trying to capture that decisive moment.

1. Get yourself in the right position

Whether it is in a jeep in Africa, a boat in Alaska or on foot at a rookery in Florida, you want to try to position yourself so that the animal is facing towards you. This helps create a more interesting connection between you and your subject. If an interesting behavior happens, you’ll be able to capture it. (Always remember that safety is first for both you and the animal.) 

2. Don’t use artificial methods to catch the animal’s attention

It takes patience and time to wait until the right moment happens, but when it does, it is worth it! If you try to catch an animal’s attention by whistling and making noises, you might end up scaring them away and you’ll never get a good shot that way. Wait until they look towards you or when a certain natural behavior happens. The results will be worth it!

3. Catching the action with practice, practice, and more practice!

In order to be able to capture wildlife in the peak of action, it takes a lot of practice in getting to know your camera settings and being ready when that right moment happens. Always be ready with your camera settings and finger ready to press the shutter. With animals, you never know when something will happen and you’ve got to be ready!

To practice for action shots before going out into the wild to photograph cheetahs running, bears catching salmon, or eagles flying overhead, try a couple of these suggestions.
  • - Dogs running at the local dog park
  • - Horses racing at the track
  • - Horse show jumping
  • - Birds flying at a nearby lake or ocean
  • - Animals at the zoo

I was at Brooks Falls in Alaska for several days. The first day, there were no bears on the falls, so I practiced photographing the fish jumping out of the water. The second day, I was ready and so were the bears!

This flamingo chick decided to try out his new legs by running around. I had my camera focused on him for several minutes and captured this moment when he decided to go for a dip in the water.

4. Get that connection between you and the animal

The more you know about an animal’s natural behaviors, the better chances you have of getting the shot. I spent many years photographing animals at the zoo before I had the chance to go to Africa. Even animals in captivity will demonstrate behaviors found in the wild. 

5. Hang around the babies to get that ‘Ah’ factor

There is nothing that melts the heart of you and your viewers quite like capturing the interaction between a baby animal and it’s parent. Again, patience is key since these little guys may spend most of their time sleeping, and you may have to wait awhile for some action to happen. I often fire off many shots when there is activity happening with young animals, since you never know when that one moment may occur. It’s better to be safe and take many shots then to miss the moment. And don’t forget to keep an eye on the amount of photos you have left to shoot on your card, and your battery status. Don’t miss that moment because you were not prepared. 

6. Post-processing and polishing your images

In order to make sure that I have an image that tells the story as I saw it, I will adjust color and light and, if needed, a few filter effects to help polish my image. 

In this image, I used Color Efex Pro 4 to selectively add the detail back into the bird’s feathers, and used a dark Vignette to draw the viewer’s eyes towards my subjects.

Homeschooled - Before

Homeschooled – After 

7. Last words of advice - Keep both eyes open and feel the moment

Since wildlife of all types have their own agenda, we have to be ready. Be aware of what is happening around you at all times and make sure that you keep both eyes open when you’re behind the camera. This will help you become more aware of the situation and more alert when something is about to happen.

I often ‘feel’ when a moment is about to happen. This comes with years of photographing animals and anticipating action before it occurs. I can’t tell you how many times I am about to leave a location and something in my head says, “No, stay for a few more minutes”, or “Move over here to the left”. 

I believe that more often times then not, it is the animal that presents itself to me, and something magical happens in front of my camera. When photographing animals, make sure your eyes and heart are open to what unfolds before you. It is one of the most rewarding experiences that you can have.

Be ready, get set, and capture the moment!

• • • • •

If Laurie's name sounds familiar . . . . Nik Software Education Project Manager, Laurie Rubin is an award-winning photographer specializing in wildlife and landscape photography. For more information on Nik Software, visit

If you are new to Nik, you can save a few bucks on the Nik Web site by using this code upon check out: RSAMMON.

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