Joe and Mary Ann McDonald's

Wildlife Photography

July 2004

Tip of the Month

Ask Questions Before You Go!

Since Mary and I lead photo tours and workshops, we're accustomed to answering questions from our participants, and we're not used to asking them. This can make you lazy in your preparation, and this was really brought home to us when we traveled to Brazil.

Although I had spoken to my Brazilian guide by phone several times, and emailed numerously, our conversation was directed toward the itinerary of the trip and the subjects we'd see. I was most concerned with the quality of the viewing, the photo opportunities we should have, the timing and length of stay at each location, etc. At one point my guide simply answered my phone question by saying, "I'll blow you away" with the opportunities, so don't worry about anything. He did, and it was an excellent tour, and we'll certainly use our guide for all of our Brazilian trips, but that reply kind of short-stopped me from inquiring further.

Consequently, when we visited our first location in Brazilian, a near cloud-forest hummingbird locale, Mary and I froze our butts off! I had assured Mary that the Pantanal would be hot (all my friends had reported so), so I had told her not to pack anything resembling warm weather clothes. Fortunately for us she didn't listen to me, and she packed a polafleece vest, heavier rain jacket, and an extra long sleeve shirt. Mary wished she had packed gloves and a hat (our guide had his!), but we simply didn't know. Nor had we specifically asked.

In the Pantanal some of our shooting was from a vehicle and as we were traveling our guide asked us if we had some type of window mount, because that would be useful for shooting from the vehicle. We have several Groofwinpods or similar supports, and all were in Pennsylvania. As were our beanbags -- including a new one, by John Stanford of Vertex called the Molar Bag that would have been perfect! I had assumed our shooting was going to be ground-based, from tripods, but a good portion was from the vehicle. Again, I should have asked for specifics about the shooting conditions.

On our own trips and safaris, Mary supplies what practically amounts to a book of information for the folks doing the activity, and I guess we assumed that since nothing was provided, nothing was required. Don't make that mistake yourself.

If you haven't traveled to an area before, or haven't traveled with a particular company or leader, don't be afraid to ask very specific questions -- what lenses you might need, do you need flash, what can you expect with the weather, or rain, or cold, or whatever. Don't be put off by evasive answers. It could be a warning that the leader or the outfitter actually hasn't been to a spot before and is being evasive because he or she simply does not know.

A long time ago we booked some of our trips through a company that had a representative that was extremely variable -- wonderful on the phone one day, nasty the next. And filled with the wrong information. As a potential or actual client, it's well within your rights to ask for and to expect accurate information and a courteous attitude when it is being delivered.

I'll be the first to admit I was responsible for being caught off-guard with my poor preparation for our Brazil trip. I should have asked questions when info wasn't being provided. Don't make the mistake I made -- you might not be as lucky as I was -- I still had a great trip! See our scouting report to see what I mean!

Our Past Photo Tips of the Month:


  DIGITAL- Digital Birding

 DIGITAL -Shoot for the Future

DIGITAL-Shoot for the Future, Part II

 DIGITAL Photographing scenes with extreme exposure values

 NPN- Nature Photography Network - a digital forum for nature photography

 Digital Pro Image Management Software

 Watch Your Backgrounds
The potential of composites or shooting in RAW format

 A Great Website for Information - the Singapore Nature Photography Society

 Save Your Equipment from Crashing!

 Protecting your long lens from SAND, the pleasures of beach photography

 How do we protect our gear from dust, and carry our gear when on safari

 The Ultimate Flash Bracket
Padding Your Wimberley
Tripod Head

  Specular highlights and the flashing frog
 Using TTL flash with Hummingbirds  Testing your Flash's Aim
Maximum Depth of Field and Hyperfocal Distance - they're not the same thing!  If you see it, it's too late -- a lesson in anticipation  How do you shoot the Moon?
  Low level tripod work  A great depth of field guide  Wimberley 400 and 600mm IS plate

 Sigma's 120-300mm F2.8 APO HSM zoom lens

 Using The Wimberley Gimbal head with a camera body

 Sigma's 120-300 f2.8 APO
zoom telephoto lens

 Custom Function 4-1 for Nikon and Canon shooters

 Sighting in a very, very long lens
 The Nature Photography Network - a super website for images and information
  Take a Workshop First   Luck, what is it?  Don't take in baby wild animals

  Airline Carry-On Luggage -Let your concerns be heard!

 Disconnect -- travel precautions

Photograph America Newsletter
 Wildlife Portraiture

 Obey the Rules
The Ti Chi Stalk
Photographing Critically Endangered Sites Bushnell Night Vision Optics  Adobe Photoshop 7 for $300

 The Sibley Bird Guides

 Removing Cactus Spines

 Drying out boots with newspaper

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