The Cincinnati PAC hosted a presentation by Dan Swart, award winning nature and wildlife photographer, at Caesar Creek State Park.
Dan has always been interested in nature and animals. His love of the outdoors, and his desire to capture and
share its wonders led him to photography. For the past thirty years, he has been adding to his vast knowledge of nature and honing his craft. Since his retirement three years ago, he has been able to devote more time to capturing the amazing natural world and the creatures that live among us.
Dan uses three approaches to photographing wildlife and nature:
- Scenic Wildlife Image– this is basically a landscape image with a wildlife subject in the scene. Dan tries to place the animal according to the rule of thirds and uses a small aperture for great depth of field. This type of photo puts the subject in its environment and tells a story.
- Behavioral Image– this is an image that shows the subject interacting with its surroundings. Whether feeding its young, building a nest, hunting or playing this image shows the similarities between animals and humans. Dan uses a large enough f-stop to keep the subject in focus but soften the background.
- Wildlife Portrait Image– this is a photo were Dan uses a low f-stop and zooms in tight to create a pleasing portrait. He focuses on the eyes and tries to get an angle that captures catch-lights and eliminates a distracting background. Sometimes just shifting a foot or two can make a huge difference.
Dan only photographs wild animals, and many of his images were taken close to his home. He also loves to travel in his motorhome and has spent time photographing around the country. According to Dan, the three disciplines he follows are patience, persistence and practice. He wants his photography to inspire others to get outdoors and explore nature and wildlife.
He has taken the time to learn the distance from the nose of a moose to its eye and then to its ears. Combined with the focal length of the lens, he calculates the f-stop he needs to get it all in focus. After years of practice, these decisions have become second nature to Dan, and he can concentrate on his composition and other aspects of the animal he is trying to capture.
Dan shared the following tips:
- Watch the direction the subject is heading and put yourself into a good position.
- Watch the direction of the light and the wind, stay down wind if possible
- Search for the best landscape environment for the shot.
- Get as close as possible to your subject but STAY SAFE!
- Watch your f-stop and iso, Dan uses AV priority.
- Focus on the eyes, use live view if your camera has it.
- Use a tripod and cable release.
- Use back button focus and Al Servo AF.
- Remember: patience, persistence and practice- the Swart Way!
Cincinnati PAC Scribe: Linda Palmer
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(Formerly Cincinnati SMUG)