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10 Wildlife Photo Tips
From the Pages of Camping Life Magazine
Wildlife sightings are a delightful part of being outdoors. Like all highlights of outdoor recreation, the desire to capture these moments with a photograph is a natural reaction to such a pleasurable experience. To help make it a more pleasurable and rewarding experience, here are 10 tips that can make the pictures you bring back home even better.
Know your camera
- Most of the time, the best wildlife photos present themselves in situations that last but seconds. You have a much better chance of capturing these moments if you know your camera well enough that its operation is second nature.
Know your subject
- Understanding animal behavior puts you in the position to anticipate action. The more you know about various species of wildlife, the more successfully you'll photograph them.
- If you have to explain a photo to others in phrases such as "this thing that looks like a dust spot is a really a big bull moose," you're too far from your subject. While it's not wise to approach animals too closely, investing in a camera with telephoto capabilities allows you to get within good photo range of your subjects.
- Finding the perfect wildlife subject and getting close enough for a photo often require considerable effort. Don't negate your investment in time by giving up too soon if the animal doesn't cooperate. In wildlife photography, like life, the good things come to those who wait.
Shoot early; shoot late
- Wildlife activity often peaks around sunrise and again at sunset. During the day, many creatures retire to secluded locations to rest. Along with creating beautiful wildlife photos, you'll also have the opportunity to record colorful sunsets and dramatically lit landscapes.
Focus on the eyes
- Make sure the animal's eyes are in focus in your photo. Soft focus is okay on other parts of the body, but the eyes must be in focus to produce a truly outstanding wildlife image. Secondly, pros look for opportunities when "catch light" or the natural pinpoint of light created by the sun is present in the eyes of the subject. This makes photos look much more alive and engaging.
Get down, get up
- Most people photograph everything from one position, the height of their eyes when standing. However, changing your angle in relation to a wildlife subject often yields outstanding results. If possible, try to get your camera on the same level as the subject.
Winter is wonderful
- winter creates some fantastic opportunities for beautiful photos. In the early part of the season, animals are in prime condition with long, rich fur that looks wonderful in a photo. Frosty mornings, falling snow and winter landscapes create gorgeous backgrounds for wildlife photos.
We all need water
- In arid climates or the heat of summer, staking out the local water source is an excellent way to be within camera range of wildlife. If you're in a place where it's feasible, erecting a blind near the water and photographing from the concealment it offers allows you to photograph even the most shy members of the wildlife community.
Respect their rights
- While animals don't have a Bill of Rights attached to the federal constitution, they deserve many of the same privileges as humans, including the rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Staking out a nest to get photos may kill the young if your presence keeps the mother from feeding her fledglings or you betray their location to a neighborhood cat. Approaching wildlife too closely in winter may cause them to flee, expending precious energy they need for survival. Wildlife photos are wonderful treasures, but they are not worth negatively impacting the lives of your photographic subjects.