27 Jun Wildlife Photography: Creating a Sense of Place

Source: Fujifilm X Blog

By Chris Weston

Wildlife photography isn’t just about frantic action shots and animal portraits. An important area of the genre is capturing a sense of place – images that show the subject in the landscape.

Photographing animals in their environment is a critical area of my work because such images serve to further the cause of environmental conservation, which is a driving force behind my work. The primary cause of decreasing wildlife populations is habitat loss, so revealing the beauty of the land in which animals make their homes is, for me, an important aspect of my storytelling.

In many ways, the standard camera format (an aspect ratio (AR) of 3:2) isn’t an ideal tool for capturing this vision. Using a telephoto lens will show the animal large in frame but the narrow angle of view restricts how much of the scene is revealed, while reduced depth-of-field blurs and de-emphasises background (environmental) detail and optical compression distorts spacial relationships between subject and background.

A solution is to use smaller focal length lenses, e.g. an XF16mmF1.4 R wide-angle or XF35mmF1.4 R standard lens, which I’m not adverse to but getting close enough to the wildlife is often impractical without causing distress, especially if you have limited time.

Panoramic Drive Mode

Much to my delight, the FUJIFILM X-T2* has a near-perfect solution: Panoramic Drive Mode. This setting is found on the Drive Dial on the X-T2 and is set by turning the selector switch to the panorama icon.

In panoramic mode, the camera takes multiple images as you pan the camera either vertically or horizontally. As it’s taking the individual frames, it aligns and stitches them to create an in-camera high-resolution JPEG image with an aspect ratio of between 3:1 and 6:1. The beauty of this elongated format, with its super wide angle-of-view, is that, without losing the benefits of magnification I get with a telephoto lens, I can create an image of an animal in its environment while keeping far enough away so as not to disturb it. The perceptual extension of image length also helps to enhance the feeling of wide-open space, which, compositionally, augments the environmental aspect of the story.

In practicing panoramic photography of this kind, there are technical aspects to consider and skills to master.

 

Setting Angle and Direction

Switching to Panoramic Drive Mode instantly reveals two option settings. The first, Angle, sets the angle-of-view (left Selector Button). M gives an angle-of-view of 120-degrees, while L gives an angle of view of 180-degrees. In the L setting the camera records more images and, as the photographer, your panning motion covers a wider arc.

In terms of image size, with Angle set to M you get an image of 6,400 x 1,440 pixels in horizontal mode (AR 4.4:1), and 6,400 x 2,160 pixels in vertical mode (AR 3:1). In the wider L setting, image size is 9,600 x 1,440 pixels in horizontal mode (AR 6.5:1), and 9,600 x 2,160 pixels in vertical mode, (AR 4.4:1).

Which option you

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