Through the lens: photography tips for capturing wildlife

Siobháin Spear
Apr 26, 2020

An avid globetrotter and photographer, David Murphy shares his top travel photography tips for capturing animals in the wild.

Like many expats living in the Middle East, David Murphy has taken full advantage of the travel opportunities, both near and far, while living in one of the world’s leading travel hubs. Hailing from Ireland, the Dubai-based international school teacher has travelled to 117 countries, carrying his camera and honing his photography skills along the way.

Featuring as our photographer of the month in the latest issue of World Traveller Middle East, David shares his travel photography tips for capturing elephants in the wild.

David Murphy’s travel photography tips

Man in green shirt takes selfie in front of a mountainous landscape in Botswana.
Travel photographer: David Murphy

From capturing gorillas in the Congo to photographing Africa’s ‘Big 5’ while road-tripping through South Africa’s Kruger Park, David has plenty of experience shooting the unpredictability of animals in the wild. Drawing on memories from one of his more recent African adventures, David shared some key tips for budding wildlife photographers.

Get up close and personal

Elephants at a watering hole in Botswana | Credit: David Murphy

David’s intimate photograph of elephants in Botswana is one that not only captures attention, but also curiosity. Asking how he managed to connect with the elephant through the lens, Murphy shared how a long-focus lens can become your go-to piece of equipment.

“This isn’t the easiest thing to do when shooting wildlife and often a telephoto lens is necessary to get that intimate shot. However, if it’s safe to do so, get in as close as possible to your subject. A viewing platform in a hidden bunker provided a great opportunity to get up close with these magnificent elephants in Botswana”, said David.

Aim for the golden hours 

Sunset with silouhettes of people in Botswana
Time of day makes all the different. Credit: David Murphy

If you’re attune with photography basics, you’ll already know that lighting is instrumental in capturing the perfect shot. And when it comes to wildlife photography, it can make all difference to what you capture as well as how you capture.

Sharing the best times to capture animals in the wild, David dwells on the importance of adjusting your exploration times: “the soft light in the hours around dawn and dusk give a beautiful warm glow to any picture, and this is also the time when animals are most visible too. Make the extra effort to be out and about at these times and give yourself the best opportunity to get that great shot.”

Take as many shots as possible

Zebras roam free in Botswana | Credit: David Murphy

While you can direct a photoshoot, you can’t direct animals in the wild, so patience is key and an extra SD card will allow you to capture more so that you don’t miss a shot. When your subject is unpredictable, you’ll need to focus your attention on capturing at pace rather than waiting for —  and perhaps missing — that one fleeting moment.

“Time and storage permitting, take as many shots of your subject as possible, even if you think you’ve already got that perfect shot. You might find something unique and striking later when going back through your images.”

Find that unique vantage point

A lion looks on from the Moremi area of Botswana | Credit: David Murphy

For those photographing wildlife for the first time, David suggests thinking about different angles and perspectives.

“Often, the most obvious shot is not the most striking. Think out of the box and look for a unique perspective. A low vantage point often gives a more intimate connection to a subject”, says David.

To view more of David’s photographs from around the world, visit or explore his travel photography through Instagram.

Keep that wanderlust alive with more travel tips and inspiration from World Traveller Middle East. For the latest health updates regarding coronavirus, ensure that the information you are consuming is from an official source.