Alpha Universe Story Detail
Alpha Universe Story Detail
Wildlife Photography:
A Walk on the Wild Side with Polpich Komson

For me, wildlife photography is about being one with nature; seeing the true beauty of the wild and wildlife in their most natural form.

A monkey swings thorough the trees as it explores the jungle.

Alpha 7R IV | FE 600 mm F4 GM OSS | 600 mm | 1/320 sec | F4 | ISO 800

Wildlife photography becomes truly successful when we can show the reality of nature in an image. To be able to do that, it requires good preparation, effort, patience and the most important of all—luck; because we cannot control nature as we wish.

This proved to be especially true in my chance encounter with the rare white-headed vulture.

Once, as I was returning to my accommodation after hours of shooting in the savannah, a white-headed vulture swooped down and started hovering in front of my vehicle.

The car was driving on bumpy gravel road and the equipment was packed away and not ready for shooting. It was the worst case of being unprepared at the right place, at the right time. I knew this was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, so I instinctively grabbed my Alpha 9 and FE 100–400 mm F4.5–5.6 GM OSS and leaned out of the car window to grab the shot. 

A rare white-headed vulture soars through the skies.

Alpha 9 | FE 100–400 mm F4.5–5.6 GM OSS | 400 mm | 1/2500 sec | F5.6 | ISO 800

According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), there are merely a few thousand left of this critically endangered species, making them nearly impossible to capture on camera. With the accuracy of the Alpha 9’s Real-time tracking AF and excellent 5-axis image stabilization system, I was able to capture the magnificent white-headed vulture in flight without missing a moment.

When both the environment and wild animals align, we and our equipment must be one in order to create the perfect shot. In my opinion, pressing the shutter at the right time is the charm of wildlife photography.

A dashing hornbill takes flight from his nest.

Alpha 9 II | FE 600 mm F4 GM OSS | 600 mm | 1/1250 sec | F6.3 | ISO 1000

Sony’s FE 600 mm F4 GM is a lightweight super-telephoto lens that creates beautiful shots when paired with a Sony full-frame mirrorless camera. It has a good balance and is easy to use without a tripod. Because I can use it handheld, it increases my flexibility and my chances to capture wildlife. Being able to keep my distance allows me to immerse myself into the landscape without having to worry for my safety, making it even easier to photograph natural wildlife behavior.

A white rhinoceros wanders the savannah at sunset.

Alpha 9 | FE 100–400 mm F4.5–5.6 GM OSS | 400 mm | 1/10000 sec | F5.6 | ISO 400 

When I go out on shoots, I prefer to use the Alpha 9, Alpha 9 II, and Alpha 7R IV. The speed and accuracy of the Real-time Tracking AF system dramatically increase the possibility of getting that perfect shot. When using a long telephoto lens, framing can become difficult. Not having to keep a fixed AF point or zone over a fast-moving subject makes capturing quick, unpredictable wildlife a breeze. 

Lionesses take shelter in the bushes to hide from the heat of the blistering sun.

Alpha 9 | FE 100–400 mm F4.5–5.6 GM OSS | 339 mm | 1/1000 sec | F5.6 | ISO 400

Sony’s full-frame cameras also have Real-time Eye AF for animals. This means that I don’t have to worry about an animal’s eyes being out of focus as the camera will track it for me. It focuses without almost any error, even on the eyes of the predators—such as lions, leopards, wolves or hyenas. 

A curious sea lion pops his head above his colony to see what's going on.

Alpha 9 | FE 100–400 mm F4.5–5.6 GM OSS | 400 mm | 1/1250 sec | F6.3 | ISO 800 

When we don't have to worry about focusing, we can pay more attention to composition and framing of the photos.

A flock of mysterious cranes are framed perfectly in an icy forest.

Alpha 9 | FE 100–400 mm F4.5–5.6 GM OSS | 400 mm | 1/1000 sec | F5.6 | ISO 800 

Sony’s cameras and lens are built for durability. They can withstand even the harshest weather conditions which means I can go to any extreme location without much worry. Whether it’s the freezing cold of an icy tundra, a desert storm in Africa, crashing waves at the edge of Atlantic Ocean or monsoon season in Thailand's tropical rainforest.

One additional feature that has been unexpectedly useful is the ability to charge on the go. On top of the prolonged battery life, the ability to charge the battery through the USB port means my time in the wild is not limited by battery capacity. I can charge the battery via USB in the car while we change locations. Or if we are spending a night in the forest, I can use power banks to charge the battery—there’s no need to search for electrical ports.

A graceful elephant strolls through lush forest.

Alpha 7R IV | FE 100–400 mm F4.5–5.6 GM OSS | 100 mm | 1/1600 sec | F4.5 | ISO 800 

In wildlife photography, we must truly understand the animals' natures and behaviors so we can increase the chances of being in the right place, at the right time. Then, when the opportunities arise, being one with the equipment and its reliability is what separates success and failure.

A bird of prey skims the water's surface in hopes of catching his next meal.

Alpha 9 II | FE 100–400 mm F4.5–5.6 GM OSS | 400 mm | 1/800 sec | F5.6 | ISO 1600

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this publication are those of the author. They do not reflect the opinions or views of Sony Singapore.

Polpich Komson’s Gear 
Alpha 9 II


Alpha 9


Alpha 7R IV


FE 100-400mm F4.5-5.6 GM OSS


FE 600-mm F4 GM OSS