How to photograph dolphins

Experienced dolphin photographer Tim Stenton offers his tips for capturing the wildlife of the Moray Firth.

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Bottlenose dolphin by Rhian

EQUIPMENT 

A digital SLR with a 300–500mm lens is the best tool for the job, but these lenses can be expensive and a 70–300mm lens will also work well.

When dolphins are close to the shore, zoom out to a wider shot so you don’t miss any action – you can always crop on a computer later.

CHECK THE WEATHER REPORT

Sunny days deliver the best shots, so pay attention to the forecast.

Ideally you want the sun behind you so use a map and tide times to plan your day.

At Chanonry Point dolphins often feed with the rising tide and sightings occur to the east or north-east. So in the morning you tend to be shooting into the sun, but in the afternoon you will find it less challenging.

COMPOSITION

Creating an attractive composition is not easy when photographing fast-moving dolphins from the shore or a boat.

Think about what you might want in the background. People, boats and recognisable landmarks often work well, adding perspective and a sense of place.

A low angle is particularly effective to make the dolphins appear larger in their environment.

SET CAMERA FOR FAST ACTION

You should set the camera up to take the highest-quality shots possible.

You are working with fast-moving animals so you need to keep your shutter speeds as high as possible, while a small aperture will increase the depth of field to make it easier to focus.

KEEP SHOOTING

The action can happen very quickly. If it does, just keep shooting – you can look at your images later.

Take spare cards and batteries. And don’t expect to get that perfect image on your first visit – it may take hundreds of hours, and thousands of images, before you get your shot.

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