It was -4F (-20C) at sunrise photographing Bald EaglesIt was -4F (-20C) at sunrise photographing Bald EaglesGet my free Darkroom & Fine Art Newsletter and never miss another article again. Many people may not know that I have been a long-time wildlife photographer because most of what I share is about film/darkroom and large format fine art photography.  

However, I am not your typical wildlife photographer.  I continue to use film cameras for the vast majority of my wildlife photography because I make handcrafted silver gelatin darkroom prints as well as my unique  Platinum HistographsTM.  

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I made a conscious decision to pursue more wildlife photography because it is something that I deeply enjoy doing and I am an advocate for nature and wildlife. I am a Certified Master Naturalist and an avid hiker, so I am routinely exposed to a variety of wildlife.  

I live in the Ozark Mountains because I deeply enjoy nature and wildlife.  I usually start my day hiking and enjoying the outdoors.  

Wildlife photography has been my way of keeping in shape and maintaining a healthy weight.  By hiking almost every day along with eating real food (i.e., farm fresh vegetables, fish, nuts, fruits, etc.), I am able to get to the places that I love in the mountains.  

Since I get a lot of questions about the gear I use, I decided to create this page for you and also share my unique approach to creating handcrafted Silver Gelatin Darkroom Prints and Platinum HistographsTM of wildlife.  

FILM FOR WILDLIFE PHOTOGRAPHY

I use 35mm film cameras (Nikon F5, F100, Canon EOS 1VHS, EOS 3) for most of my wildlife photography because I specializing in making collectible fine art analog prints.  I use four different films based on my scene, subject, and mood that I am trying to convey.  

Kodak Tri-X - I use Tri-X the most out of my standard films because I like the X-grain structure of this film and the classic look of my prints.  I have tested Tri-X and found my personal EI to be 250 vs. 400 as stated by Kodak.  I try and expose at the optimum EI of 250 when I can, but routinely rate the film at EI 800 and push to 1600 and 3200 in XTOL.  Tri-X is very forgiving in exposure and development, making it a good and versatile film for the challenging lighting conditions of wildlife photography.  The separation and contrast in the shadows and mid-tones with Tri-X is one of the reasons I love this film so much for wildlife photography.  I like subtle prints and Tri-X is a good film to help me achieve my creative goals.  

Kodak T-Max 400 - I use T-Max 400 when I know I want to scan my negatives for making platinum prints or when I want punchy contrast in low contrast lighting.  T-Max 400 is much less forgiving in exposure and development than Tri-X, but the new T-grain emulsion scans really well for those times that I need this.  The new T-grain (tabular grain) crystals have more surface area to volume rating than Tri-X, giving it more sensitivity for the grain size.  This in turn means the contrast of T-Max in the highlights is much higher than Tri-X and lower in the shadows and mid-tones.  It is very easy to blow out the highlights with T-Max 400 if the exposure and development are not right on the money and so I am careful to not use this film in scenes where I have deep shadows and bright highlights.  I rate my T-Max at EI 250 and develop in XTOL 1:1 to help with the separation of the shadows.  I will push this film to 800, 1600, and even 3200 if needed.  

Kodak P3200 - I standardized on Tri-X because it is a classic film and reliable.  Kodak took away P3200 and then reintroduced it again in 2018.  For this reason, I don't put as much effort into P3200 because I am not sure what Kodak will or won't do with this film in the future.  However, having the option to rate this film at an EI of 12,500 or even 25,000 is something very nice to have in your bag.  I find that P3200 looks more like T-Max 400 than Tri-X in my opinion.  

THE CHALLENGES OF WILDLIFE PHOTOGRAPHY

Black Bear - Great Smoky MountainsBlack Bear - Great Smoky MountainsIf you enjoy this photo, subscribe to my Wildlife Photography Newsletter today and never miss an update again. One of the things that I love about wildlife photography is the skill required to get close to the animals.  Besides the required photography-centric skills, you need to be knowledgeable about the animals that you enjoy photographing in order to create something memorable.  The "keeper rate" for most wildlife photographers is very low, and this is part of what I love about the challenge.  I am instantly transported back to each experience when I review my photos.  

Wildlife photographers need to master the key skills required to create winning wildlife photos (capture tack sharp images, color management, resizing and cropping for composition, advanced noise reduction, advanced multi-layer sharpening) and invest a lot of hours in the field.  

Independent of your choice of output mediums, the same fundaments apply. You need to be able to capture critically sharp and compelling images in the field, and then successfully navigate through the post-processing steps which includes color management, cropping and resizing for compelling compositions, noise reduction, and selective sharpening. Because we work in low-light conditions most of the time, we push the limits of camera gear and post-processing more than any other type of photography.

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Black Bear Cub - Platinum/Palladium Fine PrintBlack Bear Cub - Platinum/Palladium Fine PrintTitle: Black Bear Cub, Great Smoky Mountains
Limited Edition: Yes, edition of 10
Print Info: Platinum/Palladium Hand Coated Fine Print
Paper Info: Hahnemühle Platinum Rag, 11" x 15"
Image Area: 8" x 10" printed on 11" x 15" media
Price: 1/10 $899 USD


I donate 20% of my art sale profits to non-profit organizations that have a proven track record of helping make our world a better place. After your purchase, I will email you asking you to select an organization for the donation.

Contact Tim for purchase information or questions.
I also love creating my large format landscape and nature Platinum HistographTM prints for different reasons (slow, methodical, peaceful, superb image quality, artisan process), and so on.  Both genres fill something special for me and I equally enjoy both of them for different reasons.  

I sort of think of wildlife photography as my extreme sport because I travel to places that I wouldn't otherwise, and do things that I probably shouldn't sometimes to have an opportunity to create a unique piece of artwork that someone appreciates and values.   

I will share the camera gear that I use and why along with some other items that you might not think about if you aren't an avid wildlife photographer.  If you have any questions, you can always email me and I am happy to help you if I can.

Be sure to join my Free Newsletter because I share a lot of information and special things with my subscribers that I don't share anywhere else.  

WILDLIFE PLATINUM HISTOGRAPHTM HEIRLOOM FINE ART PRINTS

Using my skills and experience as a long-time large format platinum/palladium fine art printmaker, I create special limited edition Platinum HistographTM  Heirloom Fine Art Prints of my wildlife subjects.  In this case, I am not able to use my large format view cameras to create the film negatives, so I have to use a high-end digital camera and powerful telephoto lenses to create the exposures, and then produce an analog film negative for the platinum printmaking process.  Since platinum printmaking is an analog process, my negative has to be the same size as the final print.  

WILDLIFE PHOTOGRAPHY GEAR 

I like to photograph a wide variety of animals in many different locations.  I live in the central part of the USA in the Ozark Mountains, however, I frequently travel out west to the Rocky Mountains and east to the Smoky and Appalachian Mountains.

I use the following photography gear for my wildlife photography

  • Nikon F5 and F100 Film Cameras
  • Canon EOS 1VHS and EOS 3 Film Cameras
  • Nikon D5 and D500 DSLR Cameras
  • Nikon 400mm F2.8 Prime Telephoto Lens
  • Nikon 300mm F2.8 Prime Telephoto Lens
  • Nikon 300mm F4 Prime Telephoto Lens
  • Nikon 200-500mm F5.6 Zoom Lens
  • Nikon 70-200mm F2.8 Zoom Lens
  • Tamron 150-600mm F5-6.3 Lens for Canon Film Bodies
  • Nikon Teleconverters 1.4X, 1.7X, 2X
  • Canon Teleconverters 1.4X
  • Gitzo 5 Series Tripods 
  • Really Right Stuff Monopod 
  • Really Right Stuff BH-55 Ball Head 
  • Wimberley Gimbal Head 

If you enjoy Wildlife photography too, send me an email and introduce yourself.  Be sure to join my Free Newsletter because I share a lot of information and special things with my subscribers that I don't share anywhere else.  

-Tim Layton