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Respecting Nature: Tips on wildlife photography

Why does one become a wildlife photographer? Travelling the world and capturing unique experiences surely make attractive boons. But for John Arifin, it’s the draw of nature that inspired an interest in wildlife photography.

Not many people can say they've seen Asian elephants in their natural habitat, or a flock of flamingoes in flight. But professional photographer John Arifin can, and he has a whole portfolio of works to prove it.

From his intimate photographs, it's easy to see the love and respect he has for the animals he photographs. In fact, that's part of what inspired him to get into wildlife photography in the first place. Specifically, "the openness of nature and being able to capture what I see, learning more about the subjects I take, and creating an awareness for nature appreciation and protection," he shares.

Despite having been in the business for decades, John never tires of wildlife photography. On what keeps him going, he says: "Each location and climate is different, with more to discover about the species that thrive in the area." Also, "being able to capture and share something so beautifully untouched, and connecting with like-minded people globally."

For those looking to go into wildlife photography, John has a few pieces of advice. First and foremost of all, know your camera.

"Master the photography skills and know your camera well to maximise the functions and capabilities of the camera," he says. Personally, he uses the Canon EOS 5D Mark III for capturing details even in dim light, and the Canon EOS 7D Mark II for reaching faraway subjects and fast action in relatively good light.

For lenses, he uses a rather wide variety: EF600mm f/4L IS II USM for birds; EF100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM for mammals, EF70-300mm f/4-5.6L IS USM for macro and general photography with Close-up Lens 500D; and EF17-40mm f/4L USM for environment, landscape and portrait.

He also advises that you get to know your subject "so that you know more about its behavior, when and where to find them." It also helps to know your timings and seasons well so you have a better chance to capture your subjects in an ideal setting.
Above all, it's important to have the right mindset. "Respect nature, don't interfere and disturb nature just for the sake of an image," he says. "Have the spirit to venture further while being careful about where you are treading."

Photos taken by John Arifin

John Arifin

A Singapore based photographer and educator. John was awarded with Associateship from Royal Photography Society (RPS) in UK in 1992. Back then he wished that he had a mentor to help and guide him on photography. With that in mind, John decided to share his experience and skills. John and his wife, Anna now travel across Asia to document wildlife and culture. They share their travel stories and photos in PhotoTravelAsia and contributed to Asian Geographic, Asian Photography, Asian Escape, Wingspan-Birds Australia and Spa Asia. John received “Best of The Decade Award ” in photojournalism from Asian Geographic Magazine in 2009.