Use a slow shutter speed for moving water
Use a very slow shutter speed when photographing moving water, for example, waves bashing against rocks. Do this by lowering your ISO down to 100-400 and open your f-stop to f/18-f/22. This will create a wonderful “milky” effect to the image. Rest your camera on a stable surface to keep the solid objects in focus and only the water blurred.
Nikon D3, Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8 at 70mm
Photograph animals’ reflections in the water
This technique will create a symmetrical mirror effect to the image. Focus on the area closest to the water’s edge when photographing reflecting faces or turn your camera vertically and move your Focus Point Indicator (the little square in the viewfinder) to the area you want in focus or alternatively increase your f-stop accordingly.
Nikon D3s, Nikon 200-400mm f/4 VR II at 400mm
Capture birds as they take off
Birds, especially raptors, make a dropping before taking off. They would rapidly look around and move their feet around to ensure a firm foothold before taking off. Depress your shutter halfway, keep it on the bird and keep looking through your viewfinder.
Keep your focus on the watering holes
Most antelope are very skittish around water, like rivers, dams and drinking holes. Even a bellow or touch from another antelope of the same species could make them jump. Keep your focus on them whilst drinking, as you never know if they will jump.
Look for interesting interactions between animals
Look for interesting interactions with an individual of the same species like a female lion cleaning and grooming her young or a juvenile imitating its parent(s). This might create a relatable incident to humans and could create a wonderful image. Lions give elaborate greetings when meeting each other.
Nikon D3, Nikon 400mm f/2.8 VR at 400mm
Look for rare or unusual animal behaviour
Most of the images that do well in competitions are unique, for example, lions in trees, big cats in water, two different predators co-feeding, predators playing with prey.
Nikon D3s, Nikon 600mm at 600mm
Convey movement with blurred lines
Slower shutter speeds create blurred lines with anything that moves. This is a great way to convey movement in an image. Try to always keep the face or eyes in focus when doing motion blur. Mount or rest your camera on a tripod, monopod, gimbal head, ball head or beanbag to increase stability and increase your chances of a sharp face or eye.
Nikon D3s, Nikon 600mm at 600mm
Look for interesting shapes and patterns
Look for interesting shapes and patterns in nature, for example, a row of similar birds on the same branch, lots of giraffes walking in the same direction or two antelope fighting in the same, symmetrical position.
Nikon D700, Nikon 300mm f/2.8 VR at 300mm
Show the subject in its environment
If the subject is in a harsh environment (like a desert) try to show more of its environment (if possible) and convey its “battle of life”. Use a wider angle to get more of the habitat in the frame.
Nikon D4, Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8 at 70mm
For amazing close-ups, be patient and still
Young Seals are very curious and quite docile. Patience, keeping quiet and sitting still might reward you with some amazing close-up images. Use a wide angle as they could come very close and could spoil your opportunities when using a telephoto lens.
Nikon D4, Nikon 200-400mm f/4 VR II at 200mm