Those of you who have had the misfortune of suffering through one of my workshops have heard me say numerous times- “The most compelling wildlife photography is that which allows you to enter the animals world. You do this by shooting at your subject’s eye level.” Sounds pretty simple but sometimes it is not quite so easy.

This is a leopard tortoise, one of the “Little Five” in safari lingo. We only say two of these guys so it was one of the most uncommon animals we came across. To get this shot I asked permission from our guide if I could get out of the vehicle and lie down on the ground. This is something that is usually frowned upon for safari clients- something about ‘looking like prey’- but what the heck. What’s the worst that could happen?

Shot with my Nikon 70-300 wide open at f5.6 at ISO 800 to get a high shutter speed.

_DSC7854Photographing elephants and giraffes is one of the few time when you are most likely going to be below their eye level. Even from the elevated seats in a safari vehicle elephants and giraffes are still way up there! To get the appearance of eye level use a longer lens and photograph them when they are a bit farther away. The closer each gets the more you’ll be looking up at them.

Photographing chimps at eye level either means getting a tree level perspective as I talked about in my last blog or finding a cooperative chimp on the ground. This is Primus, the alpha male of the chimp troop we visited. He was feeding about 40′ away so I sat down and started to compose a shot. As I sat there though he came closer to me and then closer still, eventually sitting 6 feet away from me eating leaves! Shot with my Nikon 70-300 at f5.6 at ISO 3200.


Because he was close and getting closer I wasn’t allowed to move. If I had been standing I could not have sat down when he approached and my photos would’ve been far less compelling. Because I was thinking about photographing at the chimp’s eye level I was ready when he so nicely got closer. Then all I had to do was wait for him to look at me.

It is always good to be lucky but it is better to be prepared when luck happens.