Wildlife Photography Untamed. Raw. Real.

~ by Varun Aditya

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Shot by SEL2470GM lens

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Prey like an observant opportunist

Way past midnight, into the wild at Zimanga Photography Hide, South Africa, I found myself craving an unhurried exclusive experience of seeing wild cats in their most natural state; uninhibited and uninterrupted doing whatever they see fit doing in their late wee hours.

As rightly put by someone, “You don’t take a photograph. You ask quietly to borrow it,”,” it stands true for wildlife photography. In fact, in the wilderness, you nearly become non-existent, camouflaging the photographerin you as an invisible observer, an opportunist.

Photography Hides: Behind the Scenes

Since it’s us humans intruding their habitat, a a specifically designed overnight photography hide with two dim LED lights on either side, such as at Zimanga Reserve, meets the purpose to sit in, for hoursif needed, and simply wait for the pristine wildernessgoing about their daily grind.

Just as a tremendous amount of effort in designing and positioningof these hides ensures a natural, yet favourable animal behaviour, lighting conditions, focal lengths and backdrops, a silent camerawith blackout-free shooting too is of utmost importance to enhance your calibre as a photographer.

Matching up their wild instincts

After the intensive setup and gearing up with my Full Frame Mirrorless Sony Alpha A9 and 24-70mm f2.8 G Master lens, my subtly moonlit, pitch-dark frame finally saw an adult lion followed by a beautiful pride of three little cubs and a lioness, stride up thirsty and straight for some quenching at the pool of water close by.

While the lion wandered around and the pride sipped up, extreme silenceand photographic speed of A9 was of utmost importance. To see and capture what the eyes couldn’t in the dark, I set the SEL2470GM lens at ISO 4000 and it did a great job at absorbing the available light, while the A9 accurately picked up the subject in such a low-light condition. However, to counter the visible graininess or noise in the produced image, this G Master lens is capable of longer exposures to light.

Exposure Triangle and Low Light Photography

Its bright, fast exposure settings constant throughout the zoom range maintains an exceptional low-light capability or action-stopping shutter speed‒ perfecting a photographer in exposure triangle.

However, for this particular picture, I took the liberty to set the aperture at f3.2 and speeded up the shutter at 1/320 to freeze as much motion as possible and let in an appropriate amount of light into the sensor for a longer time.

If you would have noticed, the backdrop also plays a part in the picture but not as important one as the wild cats. To keep a balanced depth of field that plays out the strengths of both, the subject and the environment is key to the photocomposition’s expression. An aperture more than f3.2 would have blurred the environment of their habitat and would have made the picture look unreal. An aperture too small and the heroes of my picture would have blended in the background and would have simply lost their importance.

A supreme balance of focus and freedom

The SEL2470GM and the A9 are a tight pair together and ideal for sports, wildlife, and subjects that demand quiet operation, greatly expanding camera versatility. While the lens does wonders in low-light conditions, a vibration-free shutter keeps the A9 stable for razor-sharp images. With precise focus at a blazing speed, it’s quiet smooth for a photographer.

Looking back at the picture, adrenaline comes rushing back to me for the moment etched forever at the odd 3:20hrs, when these wild cats casually strolled at Zimanga and I just happened to be one of the lucky ones to witness and capture this family midnight-break.

Just as free as the wilderness and as hungry for power and control, a photographer is free as a creative with a professional lens and hungry to take up a wide range of shooting challenges.A camera such as A9 and a fitting set of lens such as the SEL2470GM sets a photographer free on the professional journey.

About Varun Aditya

Varun Aditya is the 1st prize Winner of Natgeo Nature photographer of the year 2016. He is one of the leading and famous wildlife photographers from India. Known for his vibrant, under exposed and unique story-telling compositions, his images have been published regularly on BBC, Apple, Natgeo, Huffpost etc. Born and brought up in Coimbatore, India, he grew up amidst Nature and always found himself strongly inclined towards Nature. While doing Business studies in London, Varun started experimenting with his camera which changed his course of life. His ardent love for nature and aviation led him to begin photographing air planes and birds in action. He then started learning photography through Google and Youtube, which paved his way to becoming a self-taught professional photographer. In the seven years from the beginning of his journey, Varun has travelled to all the National parks in India and Africa, additionally travelling to Madagascar, Costa Rica, Panama, Scotland and Indonesia. After his expedition to more than 7 countries, he finds Kenya to be his favourite destination. Having travelled to Masai Mara for over 10 times, Varun has amassed in-depth and astounding knowledge of the habitat and behaviour of the animals at the African savannah. Varun is a person who strongly believes that story-telling through a photograph is much more powerful than a video. Composition and story-telling images are Varun’s forte. His craze for composing different wide frames and perspectives can be seen through all his photographs. He is passionate about chasing light and weather. He has accumulated the experience of photographing same habitats and subjects over different seasons of weather and light. He loves observing and experimenting with dramatic weather and dramatic light, especially the golden light hours during the sunrise and sunset. This passion for light has led him to master the positioning skills, where he considers it an interesting game to position himself at the right spot, at the right time to catch the perfect light and a well-framed moment. Varun also possesses extensive knowledge in Lightroom and at times envisions how he wants the processed output to be and then composes his images. He is calm, amiable and finds joy in sharing his photography knowledge.

Story Stats & Gear Used:

Main image stats:

Lens FE 24-70mm F2.8 GM
ISO 4000
Exposure (1, 320)
Model ILCE-9
Focal Length (24, 1)
Aperture (3356144, 1000000)
Shutter Speed (8321928, 1000000)

Sony Alpha 9 Full-frame Mirrorless camera - Made for professionals.


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