“Photography provides me with the perfect time out”

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“Photography provides me with the perfect time out”

Tobias Kuhl is currently writing his doctor's thesis at the University of Bonn. Whenever his head gets overloaded with thoughts about specialist literature, he heads out into the countryside with his camera and the Tamron 150-600mm super-telephoto lens. In the Tamron blog, he gives tips about how he manages to create his impressive wildlife photographs …

My name is Tobias Kuhl and I am actually a research assistant at the University of Bonn.

At the moment, I am writing my doctor's thesis while working part-time at the Institute for Psychology. Two or three times a week, however, I can't resist the urge to get out into the open and back to nature with my camera. Nature photography provides me with the perfect time out from work.

I bought my first reflex camera during a city break in Berlin.

I had a small compact camera with me but was so disappointed in the quality that I headed into the nearest electronics store and bought myself a DSLR. I simply wanted to be able to take better pictures.

When I am taking photos, I am able to completely switch off.

When taking photographs of animals, you often have to sit and wait for a long time. However, you mustn't let your concentration falter because you don't want to miss that moment when the animal finally appears. Your smartphone and other distractions are thus off limits …

I think that having high quality equipment is particularly important.

I take photographs with the Canon EOS 5D Mark III. Most of my pictures are taken with a high-speed 400 mm fixed focal length Canon lens and the Tamron super-telephoto lens SP 150-600mm F/5-6.3 Di VC USD. I also have a seven kilo Berlebach wooden stand with a head that also weighs at least another two kilos – nothing is going to knock that over in a hurry.

The Tamron SP 150-600mm F/5-6.3 Di VC USD is perfect for nature and wildlife photography.

I can capture many subjects optimally with this zoom lens. When it comes to sharpness, the performance is impressive – which is also thanks to the great image stabiliser that has served me really well while taking free-hand photos.

My interest in photography started with the birds and squirrels ...

... that I found in my nearby surroundings. I waited for hours on end in a camouflaged tent hide together with a friend for the animals to show themselves. That got me hooked. And I now also travel far and wide to take photos. I have already been to Helgoland several times and in April I visited a photographer friend of mine on Sardinia. I really like the fact that through photography you can get to know many interesting people.

I almost exclusively photograph out in the countryside.

Two or three times I week I head out into the open. But I don't always have my camera with me – I am often out investigating new places or researching new subjects.

As a nature photographer, I feel like a hunter.

I am not interested in hunting in itself but taking photographs of animals in the wild does awake a real hunting instinct in me. When I finally manage to take that long hoped for picture, I get an strange overwhelming feeling of joy. Even later on when I look at that picture, I feel it all over again.

A good photo is more than just a piece of photographic documentation.

It's not simply about taking a photograph of an animal. That perfect moment is more than just the incident itself. You must also choose the right location and the light needs to be just right too.

Here are my 7 tips for nature photographers:

  1. Use a stand! I always use a stand if possible. At first it might seem somewhat impractical to always have to carry a stand with you and then set it up but in most cases it is the only way to ensure you get really sharp images.
  2. Activate the image stabiliser – or switch it off! Always activate the image stabiliser if you are taking free-hand photos. However, when the camera is mounted on a stable stand, I do switch it off because otherwise the automatic mechanism may try to compensate for movements that aren't actually there.
  3. Select a short shutter speed! Regardless of whether you are shooting free-hand or with a stand, the shutter speed should always be as short as possible to avoid unattractive blurring caused by either shaking or movement.
  4. Get as near as possible! Even with the super-telephoto lens, I still try to get as close as possible to the subject. The further the shooting distance, the bigger the risk that dust or disturbances in the air can cause a reduction in sharpness and brilliance.
  5. Get down on the floor! The same rule applies to animals as for children: To get captivating images you need to get down to their eye-level. For wild animals, this means as a rule that you will have to lie on your stomach in the dirt (or on a camping mat).
  6. Focus on the eyes! You should always make sure it is the eyes that are in focus if possible. As is the case with human portraits, it will always be the eyes that those viewing the photograph will focus in on. They draw the viewer in and should therefore be absolutely sharp in the image.
  7. Breathe out and then press the shutter release! To exclude the possibility of even the finest blurring, I always make use of a technique used by snipers: Press the shutter release after you've finished breathing out. At this moment your body is completely still so that no involuntary movements can be transferred to the camera.

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