Janet Kleyn is the Travel & Things guest Blogger for August. I don’t want to steal her thunder, so I will let her introduce herself…
Hi, my name is Janet Kleyn(sometimes known as The Hide Lady) and I manage the PhotoMashatu photographic concession at Mashatu Game Reserve in the Northern Tuli block of Botswana, where I share my expert advice, tuition and experience to help my clients take their photography to the next level. Many guests return to gain from my expert advice and keen photographic eye and my intimate knowledge of wildlife, For me “it’s as much about the experience of being in nature, as it is in getting the photograph – and if you love the experience, you’re bound to reflect that in your photography”.
Janet’s top tips for photographing from a hide:
1] Be ready for anything – If possible, have a long and wide lens available to give you different photographic options. Don’t panic shoot, take your eye off the viewfinder occasionally and look around for inspiration and decide what you want to capture.
2] Be prepared – Have all your equipment out and easy to get to. You don’t want to be fumbling and opening zips or velcro to get to your equipment just as the animal arrives.
3] Be fully immersed – Look and listen for clues of what may be approaching or what may happen. Eg. squirrels alarm calling could signify a predator approaching or branches breaking an elephant. This will give you time to prepare and be ready.
4] If you know some animals or birds are regular visitors, think about what you want to capture in advance and plan your shots.
5] You can’t control the light – think about what you will do as the light changes. When it is very bright consider shooting for black and white where a higher contrast subject can work well against a bright sky.
6] There is the obvious advantage of being positioned at an angle that is ideal for wildlife photography. As wildlife photographers, we always strive to get photos at eye level to our subjects as it helps to create a connection between the subject and the audience, but when the subject is having a drink, eye level is very low and this is where a sunken hide comes into its own.
7] Photographing from ground level changes perspective and gives the added advantage of increasing the distance between the subject and the background. The greater this distance, the shallower the depth of field resulting in softer backgrounds.
But apart from these photographic benefits, I find being so close to animals, without the sound of an engine, gives me a much more intimate experience with the subject. The animals are allowing you into their space. This is a very privileged place to be as it relies on trust and these animals trust you to do no harm and better yet, capture them going about their normal lives. This intimacy helps me decide on compositional elements and what I want to portray in my image.
While driving we tend to miss so many of the smaller, less obvious things. Being forced to sit in one place and wait for whatever arrives has made me pay attention to so much more. It’s taught me to look out for interesting behaviour to capture, and that is what photography is about for me – capturing moments. A hide at a waterhole offers a huge diversification of different species from frogs to predators and everything in between. It takes patience but the rewards are boundless.