Before you leave home
Service your camera before leaving on a big adventure.... and service it when you get home again if you've handed your gear a beating.
Familiarise yourself with the various camera functions. A new camera seems to have more controls than the dashboard of a 747. I read
my manual page by page and familiarise myself with all of the camera's functions so I can quickly change my settings to optimise image
capture. Do not forget to pack your user manual, it may be your best friend in a remote location where you cannot use the internet for
instant troubleshooting or advice.
Research your subject. Figure out what to expect and get ideas by surfing the web, browsing in bookstores, learning about your proposed
subject matter and learning about the conditions in the field.
Practice makes perfect, particularly for moving objects. For example, I know when I venture into the Southern Ocean I want to capture
images of the magnificent albatross so I practise on the silver gulls at home and many smaller birds to get my eye in.
A good photographer is a keen observer and learns to anticipate animal and human behaviour.
Waterproofing - this is mandatory for polar trips. I recommend a good dry bag to carry expensive gear in zodiacs.
Batteries/memory/film - pack enough! There is nothing worse than running out when mother nature puts on a show. I carry a laptop and
external hard drive to catalogue, back up and edit files on a daily basis.
Filters (UV, polariser). All my lenses are protected by UV filters. I carry a polariser but do not use it very often. It is not a default filter. Try
long exposures in the daytime with a 9-stop ND filter.
Familiarise yourself with some of the "rules" of composition. They are of course tools, not rules. You'll find myriad sites on the web devoted
to photographic composition.
In the Field
Battery recharge - do it as regularly as possible. On long trips in cold regions where I am limited by what I can carry my batteries stay next
to my body at al times to avoid depletion from cold. Don't forget to pack an appropriate adaptor. I always carry a spare as they are easy to
loose or leave and inevitably someone else will have forgotten to pack one and will shout you a drink for a lend of your spare one.
Check you settings before you start shooting. You may have been shooting low light at ISO 1600 and are now heading out into bright
sunshine but forget to switch to ISO 100. You may have been overexposing and forget to change it back. The list goes on....
Vibration reduction, especially in zodiacs - very helpful, be careful not to unintentionally switch it off when using this function.
Camera straps - use them, I've seen too many folks drop cameras and break them because they didn't take the two seconds required to
drape the strap around their neck or wrist. I've done it!
Observation - don't just fire away unless a whale is breaching right in front of you. Take time to think about the different perspectives
available, the direction of light, behaviour of your subject and composition of the shot.
Anticipation - look for the signs that something compelling is about to happen. I have learned a great deal about penguins and albatross
simply by observing. I can now anticipate certain behaviours that make for more compelling images.
Exposure - a tricky one - check your histogram, if you do not know what a histogram is and you are using a digital camera, learn about the
histogram, a simple google search will reveal all. Bracket if unsure. Shoot in RAW to give greater scope for correction in processing.
Try new perspectives. Try getting down low or way up high.
Think about what are you trying to convey in an image.
Don't forget to put your camera down and soak up your surroundings, especially if you are somewhere remote and beautiful.