On November 19, 2018, Dubuque Camera Club member Andreas Exner gave a presentation on Storytelling in Wildlife Photography. Thirty people attended, including both familiar and new faces. Club president Ron Tigges gave a brief overview of the club and introduced our presenter.
Andreas shared a slide show of wonderful bird, wildlife and landscape pictures, as well as his tips for success as a wildlife photographer. You can see more of his photography on his website at www.exnerimages.net.
Andreas is originally from Germany and now makes his home in the tri-states. As a relative newcomer to the Mississippi Valley, he is appreciative of the diversity of life it contains. “In the Mississippi Valley, you have access to nature areas very easily,” he said.
He tries to use his passion as a wildlife photographer to create awareness. We need to make a commitment to protecting habitat so that future generations will have these opportunities too.
“If we just create a little habitat around our homes, the animals will come to us,” Andreas said. The advantage is that you don’t have to travel far to take storytelling pictures. He displayed many excellent bird photos taken not far from his front door.
Photographers also need to act ethically so that our subjects are not harmed. To the oohs and awes of the audience, he displayed a couple of fox den photos and the story of how he took them. “It’s very important not to endanger the wildlife that we photograph,” Andreas said.
“Don’t go home too early” is also one of his secrets. If you are patient and know the biology of your subject, you don’t need an expensive, long lens. Sometimes, when you think you haven’t gotten anything, you simply need to switch to a new subject. For instance, if the bird you are seeking proves impossible, take a photo of that butterfly.
Successful photos have three ingredients: light, gesture, and color. Photos without these qualities go right in the trash can. And don’t frame the bird or frog too tightly: “Including habitat in the photo makes it part of the storytelling,” said Andreas.
He shoots with a Nikon D750. He takes advantage of today’s sophisticated auto-focus. To avoid noise, he rarely raises the ISO above 400. He likes to experiment with black and white, especially in landscapes. So you don’t miss shots, remember to look behind you!
Andreas displayed a couple of dramatic Bison pictures, including one in black and white. And no, he didn’t lie down in front of a male bison! Some animals can be dangerous. His photographs of Bighorn Sheep were taken from a distance.
The car often makes an effective blind, and birds aren’t bothered, until you actually open the car door. He uses this strategy at Green Island, one of his favorite photography locations in the area. He mentioned a few other top wildlife photography locations, in Iowa as well as in the western U.S.
Occasionally, on an overcast day or in dim light, Andreas uses a flash. He displayed an awesome flash photo of a Flying Squirrel on a tree trunk, taken by chance with only a few moments to grab his gear. He said that a hint of flash can also bring out the color of a bird’s feathers.
Lastly, to be successful as a nature photographer, always ask yourself, “What’s my subject?” For instance, if you want to photograph Bald Eagles, the Mississippi River at Le Claire, Iowa, is very popular. During the question and answer period at the end of the presentation, the photographers in the audience offered a few other tips and location suggestions.
Thank you to Andreas Exner!!! We enjoyed so many beautiful natural images during his presentation on storytelling in wildlife photography. Also thanks to everyone who attended!