Four Tips for Photographing Wildlife
Despite the highway sign as you enter Utah warning Eagles on Highway, it is not always so easy to find wildlife to photograph. As much as I admire the photography of those who specialize in this area, and as much as I aspire to have such wonderful photos in my portfolio, I am not a wildlife photographer. I do not have the equipment, like the super long lenses, nor do I have the patience and determination to be good at getting close to wildlife (imagine camping in the wilderness, in the cold, for periods of time and being close to dangerous wildlife). I do, however, like to see wildlife and to capture what I see with my camera.
Visit a national park. Not so off the beaten path are our amazing national parks. Within the park boundaries, animals are protected. They tend to allow humans closer proximity than they might when in a less protected environment. That said, do not get too close as these are still wild animals. Yellowstone National Park hosts elk and bison that casually wander the roads and parking lots. The deer at Great Sands National Park are abundant, especially at dusk. State parks are also good places to look for wildlife. Get off the highway. My favorite places are canyons and badlands. These also seem to be favorites of Bighorn Sheep. Do you notice all of those exits that seem to be in the middle of “nowhere”? Explore some of those – see what you find as you travel a few miles down an unknown road. You can always turn around and return to the highway. We recently found these eagles just off the highway and across a stream.
Look for wildlife at the right times of day. Timing and patience are important when viewing wildlife. As the sun rises and as it lowers, animals tend to visit areas with water. And as wildlife approach water, predators may be nearby waiting for improved hunting opportunities. Take a walk through the woods, find a stream, and quietly wait to see what comes by as the afternoon wanes. Watching bats emerge from a cave at dusk is fascinating. There may be hawks waiting for the bats too. Sit quietly and look around you. Wildlife may be in the sky (birds, insects, bats), scurrying under the brush or over rocks (rodents, lizards, snakes), scampering in trees (squirrels, birds), moving through the water (turtles, alligators, birds), or strolling by (deer, fox, coyotes, rabbits).
Do your research. Know what wildlife is abundant in an area. Look at maps. Contact local wildlife management offices, park rangers, and even photographers and ask where to go for the best viewing opportunities in your area. Find a group or club that may share your interest. Talk to hunters and hikers. Enroll in a photo workshop where you will be guided to prime locations.
Wherever you live, there is some form of wildlife available to you. Of course, we would all like to travel and photograph wildlife that seems more exotic to us, but do not let that desire blind you to what is easily available too.
Let me know what you find and your favorite places for looking for wildlife.