Saturday, March 08, 2008


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Wildlife photography at night is often discouraged. The reason is, people can't think of it without the use of a flash. Nocturnal wildlife is very sensitive to light. Their eyes are meant to be used in very low light and need to be rested even in daylight. Imagine the effect of a powerful camera flashgun on them! Even the 'weak' inbuilt flashes that come with digital cameras can cause permanent optical damage if used from very close.

So does one have to pack up one's camera at sundown? Not necessarily. In this age of DSLRs, we have the convenience of changing ISO at will. Torchlight, car headlights (from a distance, of course), etc. are not known to harm/disturb wildlife the way flashguns do. Especially in areas where wildlife has become used to frequent human presence, such an external source of illumination may be used without any feeling of guilt. However, care must be taken not to approach too close to the subject and one must always switch off the light at the least hint of disturbance on the animal's part. Combined with these weak sources of light, a high ISO of 1600 or 3200 can yield fairly good results. During night drives through well wooded parts (don't do it in parks where it is not permitted!), I usually have my 75-300 mounted, with ISO pumped up to 3200 and camera in 'Tv' mode and shutter speed set somewhere between 1/15 to 1/30. My camera has an in-built 'Shake Reduction' system and I manage to take fairly good pictures hand-held at such low shutter speeds. Later, I work on them on Photoshop, adjusting levels to correct lighting and if necessary, use noise reduction and sharpening. Here, I have attempted to showcase some of my work taken with these tricks. Night photography need not always be unethical!

Some 'DOs' and 'DON'Ts' to keep in mind:

(a) NEVER use a flash.
(b) NEVER shine a light directly onto the animal's face/eyes.
(c) NEVER physically restrain the animal. Switch off the light at the least hint of disturbance.
(d) Maintain silence throughout.
(e) Pump up your ISO to max.
(f) Use medium range focal lengths (200mm, max. 300mm.)
(g) Use manual focus.
(h) Tripods and beanbags, if possible to use, will give a lot of advantage.
(i) Don't drive around at night where it is prohibited. Roads outside parks, especially in rural areas and even in city outskirts, often throw up the odd hare, civet or jackal.
(j) Don't be a maniac of a driver. Drive slow and don't honk. In any case, if you do any of those, you'll probably end up not even seeing a rat.
(j) Practice all standard safari ethics while on these 'night safaris'.

Would love to hear your views on this.



Satyesh said...

Hi Aditya...
Good advise given on photography.
Well I am not as professional as you are...but you can check my blog
where my trevelogues and photographs in Orissa have been captured.

Anonymous said...

well aditya...
the hardwork you do is worth living the life,
by the way i want to know that how does the animal behaviour change when their population declines like the wolf(canis lupus indica)
my name is keshav