Fast Tracking to Results – Photography with Brad Leontsinis

 

Photography With Brad Leontsinis

As a wildlife and photographic guide, I am frequently teaching and constantly learning – so I am delighted to provide a platform where I am able to share some of my new and old photographic discoveries. I will be giving tips and discussing photographic ideas and concepts, which will inspire and help you through the exciting world of photography. My column will change your perspective, push your creativity and help you to understand your equipment so you can better execute on your creativity and passion.

Elephants of Kruger - 2015 Drought

2015 Drought – Elephants of Kruger 

 

Edition 1- Fast tracking to results

I have no official (or paid for) training in photography and for a long time this prevented me from picking up a camera.  I felt unprepared to do justice to the amazing wildlife and travel scenes I was witnessing daily. My take home message is: forget what training you have and forget the coin phrase “Professional Photographer”. Just start shooting – the rest will come.

What held me back…

Even before the days of the social media explosion, the market felt saturated in the field of photography, particularly in wildlife. If I could not be the best immediately, I did not want to take part. The technical understanding of a camera required and the science of photography seemed like giant tasks and I was reluctant and stalling. Completely discounting my own creative instincts and how these could effectively be applied in photography.

The first image I took after my camera purchase which I was truly proud of. I realised with this image that I already had useful skills for photography. I predicted the behaviour of the lion based on my animal understanding and was able to capture the anticipated moment. ISO 200 ; Focal Length 200mm ; f / 5.6 ; 1/1000 sec

2007 – The first image I took after my camera purchase which I was truly proud of. I realised with this image that I already had useful skills for photography. I predicted the behaviour of the lion based on my animal understanding and was able to capture the anticipated moment. ISO 200 ; Focal Length 200mm ; f / 5.6 ; 1/1000 sec

 

I thought I would not have the time or money to get enough of a technical understanding of a camera, required to make striking images, which would do justice to the world that I see. Never the less in 2007 I decided that as a wildlife guide, it was time for me to take the plunge and start capturing what I was witnessing. I decided to buy a mid range or semi professional camera, i.e. affordable but an excellent camera at the time: Canon 40D DSLR with an 18-200mm F3.5 – 5.6 Sigma Lens. The second I made the decision, I never looked back. In another post I will look at Buying DSLR cameras – where to start and how to progress.

Making the decision to buy the camera was the first hurdle. The second hurdle which I find holds most people back in their photographic journey is what seems like the sizeable task of learning about the camera and about the very daunting terms such as aperture, shutter speed and ISO which photographers flippantly throw around.

One of my favourite images I have taken was in 2007 within the first 4 months of owning a camera. ISO 400 ; focal length 200mm ; f / 8.0 ; 1/200 sec

2007 – One of my favourite images I have taken was within the first 4 months of owning a camera. The image is not perfect and knowing what I know now, I can think of several ways I would have technically improved the shot. This did not matter as I had a camera and was able to capture a priceless moment well enough.  ISO 400 ; focal length 200mm ; f / 8.0 ; 1/200 sec

 

As soon as I started it seemed easier. I quickly realised by getting an understanding of the fundamentals or pillars of photography, ISO, Aperture, F-stop, Shutter Speed, Exposure, I was able to apply these practically to begin to understand the relationship between them. When I actually gave these elements some proper thought, I realised they were not nearly as scary or complicated as I was giving them credit for. The dynamic between these elements and how they affect each other is where the true art lies in my opinion. Here’s the good part, there remains only one way to learn about this dynamic. Pick up your camera, put it on a manual setting and start taking photos. I will address the different manual modes in a future post which will give you advice on which one to choose and why.

I find there are three types of photographers who don’t realise their full potential:

  1. Leave it on Auto Mode Photographer
  2. Leave it in the bag photographer – Those that have SLR cameras but never take them out because they are “too heavy”
  3. Iphonographer – Talented phone photographers with amazing creativity and compositions skills yet, unknowingly held back by equipment limitations.

What’s wrong with just pointing and shooting?

Absolutely nothing, but the reality remains, you are able to have much more control over your images and the stories they tell if you dig just a little deeper than pointing and shooting. Photography is exceptionally rewarding and with the advancement of technology it will continue to improve. In this visually captivating, physical and virtual world, there has never been a better time to express your individuality in what you see and feel through the stories you tell with your images.

I learnt practically, on the ground and I learnt fast. I will never forget a piece of wisdom given to me by my senior school geography teacher, Mr David Gear. There was a large poster on his classroom wall, which read: “There can be no learning without thinking”.

Taken in 2008. By this stage I was starting to get a great grasp of what I needed to be doing with my camera to achieve more. ISO 160 ; Focal length 170mm ; f / 5.0 ; 1/800 sec

2008. By this stage I was starting to get a great grasp of what I needed to be doing with my camera to achieve more. ISO 160 ; Focal length 170mm ; f / 5.0 ; 1/800 sec

 

Finally – find a way to shoot. I had the benefit of working in a constantly stimulating photographic environment. I made sure I used my camera wherever I was going and I manipulated the settings constantly, living off the exposure meter and very importantly looking at the LCD screen to see how different settings of the fundamental elements influenced the images as I was creating them. I learnt fast like this and never looked back.

Your photography will continue to improve and you will find endless joy in seeking the results you hope to achieve. This shot was taken in challenging low light conditions in 2015. ISO 2500 ; focal length 200mm ; f /2.8 ; 1/160 sec

Your photography will continue to improve and you will find endless joy in seeking the results you hope to achieve. This shot was taken in challenging low light conditions, 2015. ISO 2500 ; focal length 200mm ; f /2.8 ; 1/160 sec

 

*Tip : We don’t all live in the bush. Find ways to challenge yourself and improve your anticipation. I started taking my camera with to all the weddings we were invited to. This helps with your understanding of light and anticipation of big moments and the need to “get the shot”.

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A winter wedding,  2015.  ISO 800 ; focal length 24mm ; f / 18 ; 1/30sec

 

In summary:

Buy the camera – don’t delay

Tackle the fundamentals – I will help you with these by showing you where to start.

Set the camera mode to one of the manual functions

Start shooting and fall in love with the world again

2008, A mist rising over the Busanga plains at sunrise. Given the right scenarios, you can make magic no matter how long you have owned a camera.

2008, A mist rising over the Busanga plains at sunrise. Given the right scenarios, you can make magic no matter how long you have owned a camera.

Brad Leontsinis

About the Author

Brad Leontsinis

Through his guiding career, Brad developed a passion for wildlife photography and believes strongly in the idea of conservation through photography. “I believe through the power of imagery, we are able to tell compelling stories about the moments which matter most.” Brad is fantastic at helping people with their own photography and ensures the only things more vivid than the memories you leave with, are the images that tell your stories.

 

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