Call of the Wild Tony Berling

Photographing wild animals in their natural habitats is one of the most rewarding and interesting forms of nature photography. Indeed, most "big game hunts" in Africa and other places these days are pursued with cameras rather than guns. Hire an experienced guide, and you can track down polar bears in arctic conditions, visit lions, elephants, and hyenas in the savannas, and see feral Mustangs in the American West. If capturing truly wild animals in the act of being themselves is your goal, expect to spend many hours in the effort.

A more reasonable alternative, however, is to visit a preserve in which the animals are allowed to run free. In the

Midwest, where I live, we have a 10,000-acre preserve called the Wilds, with plenty of rhinos, giraffes, and other open range animals (www.thewilds.org) and Wolf Park (www.wolfpark.org) where photographer Tony Berling captured this photo of Tristan, alpha wolf of the pack.

Located near Lafayette, Indiana, Wolf Park is one of the top non-profit education and research wolf facilities in the country. "It's a unique experience that any photographer can enjoy," Berling says. "You are permitted to go in an enclosure and take photographs among a pack of wolves. At times, it can be a very interactive experience."

His visits to the park have allowed Berling to compile some tips that apply to photographing other wild animals as well. "My best advice I can give is always respect a wild animal when you are in their home," he explains. "Also, know your subjects' natural behaviors so you can be in the proper position to capture the shot. Animals can always read a person's feelings, so the more relaxed you are with them the more relaxed they will be with you." He adds that in wildlife photography, instinct, subject knowledge, following a basic set of rules, and speed all play a key role in this type of environment. Things can move very quickly and you have to adjust your camera settings on the fly to adapt to your changing environment.

The shot was taken with a Pentax K10D camera using an f/2.8 50-135 zoom lens, cranked out to its maximum focal length. The wolf was captured at l/125th second and f/3.5 at ISO 200. "I used this wide aperture to specifically blur the background, and focused on the wolfs furry neck to give emotion to the shot," Berling says. "I like the colder feel of the image, as Tristan was standing on a frozen pond."

The photographer says that very little post-processing was done on this image because, "I believe wildlife shots should be left in a natural state," Berling concludes. "I applied only a slight brightness and contrast adjustment and used a tighter crop to give more emphasis on the head of the wolf."

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