Photography in the Wild
This new year has started with a realization; I love bird photography! I think I am leaning towards nature in the next year. So much has changed and I never really believed that nature would be for me. I still love tourism and helping people discover Florida but nature does call to me. With that said I thought I would share some insight I have gained in the little time I have done this.
How to photograph Wildlife
This is not going to be entirely about equipment or even technique. It is rather about the lifestyle that nature photographers have to adapt to. I have found myself needing to make changes to how I approach subjects now. Instead of getting up close and personal (at least at first) a nature photographer must remain in back. Using a telephoto lens is a requirement at least at first contact with skittish animals. Getting low to the ground will also be helpful plus it gains you a creative angle as well.
Do not try to “create” a shot by disturbing or feeding animals. Do not feed birds, do not throw rocks at squirrels to get them to scatter in short treat them with the respect everyone deserves. Why not feed birds or other animals? Besides being highly territorial and aggressive birds and other wildlife depend on hunting/gathering skills. What happens in a park when birds begin to rely on humans for food? What happens when it gets too cold for a human to be comfortable? These all can lead to dependency that will end up harming the bird. Just Don’t Do It!
I really should not have to explain the do not throw things at animals part. I have seen photographers skip rocks on water towards birds to scare them into flight. Not only does this make the animal more skittish but it also forces you to lose out in possible behavioral shots. Not to mention the extreme possibility that you could injure the animal. Using an airhorn, same scenario. There is absolutely no reason to force a shot to happen when it comes to wildlife. They will happen on their own.
There is a final note; be wary of your environment. Wildlife photography can be more than just a hobby. It can be a way of life. When you spend time around the magnificence of nature you gain a respect for it. Try not to impact your environment. Clean up as you go, keep lighting to a minimum at night (try using a red light instead of white) and try not to intrude into animal hovels. If you scare off a mother from its nest you have just given a predator free reign. Probably something that would not have happened as easily if you had not traipsed into the poor creature’s home.
How Can I get to Photograph Wildlife
If you are in the U.S (I cannot attest to other countries) there are plenty of opportunities! Check out National Park Services to find local federal parks. You can also look for State parks, city and county parks and so on. Most of the national parks have special activities, tours and educational opportunities.
Many parks also have photo groups or clubs and those are the real gems. These groups might have special use permits which grant them access to places the public usually cannot get to. There are also volunteer opportunities at these locations. All of this will help you get closer to getting that once in a lifetime shot all photographers seek to capture. So if you have them in your area or even a hour away why not check them out?
Another great option are rookeries. Bird rookeries can be found everywhere in the U.S and around the world. These are nesting sites for birds and many feature several species of bird! Some are commercial such as Gatorland who even offers a special photography pass! I have not yet found a national U.S rookery database yet, if you know of one please let me know in the comments.
If you are really out of options and nothing else seems to help then spend a day sitting next to almost any body of water. This is the only place you can definitely find wildlife, everyone needs water! That is often what I do now. I find a nice pond, lake, river or even the ocean and I plant myself. One of the biggest things that defines a photographer from a snap shot artist is determination. We might get the shot we want but we will stay to find more. Do not be afraid to “waste” a day waiting for more birds or other animals to come. You will often find that the time spent is paid off in full plus some!
There is so much to wildlife photography. It is a completely new study for me and I hope to learn so much more in the coming year. If you want to learn more about nature photography Rick Sammon (wildlife and nature), Trey Ratcliff (landscapes and nature) or even Youtube are a good place to start. Another really good learning resource if you can find it would be Wild Photo Adventures and for inspiration: Art Wolfe’s Travels to the Edge. So here is to 2014 and may this year bring you photos beyond your wildest dreams!
Photos from the Post