I think that the most fun any photographer can have, is when we are out photographing wildlife. The anticipation alone is worth the cost of the equipment. Of course your subjects are living breathing creatures, and they have a brain. Trying to find your subjects is the first challenge, trying to make a usable picture is the second. I developed a philosophy over the years. I learned to leave my ego at home, because I was so depended on those animals as far as their tolerance of me, and what they did for the camera. I eventually learned not to press wild animals. I even found out that quite often, a patient photographer with a love for his subject, was rewarded with that animal actually coming closer to you. I have stood within ten feet of Red-tailed Hawks, Bald Eagles, Coyotes, rabbits, Raccoons, and on and on. Notice I am not counting the foxes and Snowy Owls that became habituated to humans. I even developed a way of looking at things, to the point that my “checked ego” allowed for the opinion that my subjects were the artists, and I was simply there to share any art that they provided. The credit was theirs.
Every wildlife photographer has a desire to get a variety of pictures of any given species. The answer to accomplishing that goal is patience and persistence. If you shoot wildlife images twice a year, your files on any given creature will be thin. It’s as simple as that. Fat files come from work. A work of joy, but work.
The first bird I ever photographed was a Great-blue Heron. They are big, interesting and artful. That’s a great combination.
Big, artful birds make great distant shots. A heron doesn’t always have to fill the picture frame.
Of course sooner or later, filling the picture frame will become a goal. Using your car as a blind/hide helps, but ultimately it is up to your subject to either accept or reject you.
Pictures of wildlife subjects that show their natural habitat are important. Whatever art exists in your wildlife photography, it is not necessarily the most important part. Wildlife photography is never just about the photographer. There is always an educational story to tell.
It is difficult to get habitat shots that have some of that habitat in front of the bird, but does not distract from the bird. It helps if the bird and the grasses (in this case) are close to the same distance from your camera. These shots are often artful by their natural order.
Of course group images are always a plus. They help tell the story (especially when they are young and on the nest), and once again provide you with art, courtesy of your subject.
Of course behavior can be easy to accomplish when you have a hungry subject in its natural habitat.
Nature abounds with wild critters going about he business of feeding them selves. This is a female Greater Scaup
The act of fishing/hunting often provides photographers with “ready made art”. This is a Greater Yellow-legs.
Sometimes subtle hunting/fishing images can tell the story just as well. Does this Red-tailed Hawk have a vole, a mouse, a rabbit under its talons? It’s a mystery, but the seriousness of its expression, is worth the price of admission all by itself.
Some subjects are just cool enough, that it is exciting just to get a picture of one. There is no question that bird photography can become about the names on a list. . There is nothing wrong with that.
Male Northern Bobwhite Quail.
When you are making static images, an interesting or artful pose, is akin to action photography. Those sorts of pictures can be very engaging. The perfect moment is what they give to the viewer. This is one of my favorite styles of wildlife photography.
Of course as many of you know, I have always been interested in photographing my subjects from every angle, including from behind. Heathcliffe the Pelican says goodbye.
No matter what kind of photography you prefer, the sheer joy, and just plain fun that’s derived from spending your time observing and photographing wild animals, is not to be missed.
Let’s finish today’s post with my fifth installment of Memories From The Field.
In 1986 I made my first return trip to my beloved Rocky Mts., of Colorado. It was spring, and spring in the mountains means a mix of spring and winter storms. My goal on this day, was to travel to the top of Mt. Evans.
My journey to the top of the earth, or what seemed like the top, was put on hold as I watched some very wicked clouds racing in my direction. Some clouds were high in the heavens and other brushed the top of the mountains, which were still well below my vantage point. Those clouds of high and low places, were beginning to converge. I stopped and got out my tripod, Pentax 6×7 film camera, a hand-held 1% spot reflected light meter, a hand-held incident light meter, and three lenses. I had time to meter and take two pictures before the winds and the hail, began to assault me. The storms turned me around that day, but I eventually completed the journey 21 years later.
From the top of Mt. Evans in 2007
When I share with you my thoughts such as those in the two paragraphs below, I realize that I run the risk of sounding like I am patting myself on the back. Trust me, I could fill the Pacific Ocean with my flaws, as well as my lack of knowledge of certain things. I write about what I observe, what I actually know, and what I have experienced. I have experienced what I write about below, dozens of times. I am quite sure that there are numerous things, that each of you could share with me, that I would profit by and learn from.
For years I wrote about the places that I have visited for photographic, and learning experiences, and shared a few pictures from them. I eventually learned over the years, to tone down the way I felt about where I had visited. People were going to where I had been for the same experience I had, and forever being disappointed. I really never go anywhere expecting to be wowed or bowled over in the sense that many people seem to. I am excited over a new place, and I am looking for the little things. A feeling, a mood or an atmosphere. That one picture that I may have never made before. That one animal I have never seen before. That one person that I spoke with who taught me something I never knew. Maybe the light was outstanding in the morning. Sometimes, if enough things feel right, I don’t even complain if I never get that picture. Maybe I see great photographic possibilities and can dream of a return trip some day. All of these things make me happy that I went to whatever place it might be. Sometimes my enthusiasm gets the best of me.
When you live with expectations of the perfect experience, and you are ready to be disappointed if everything does not meet your standards, you will in fact be constantly disappointed. Constantly. You will always wish you went somewhere else. I have always been happy with where I went. When you are only looking for moments, then you can truly see the good in a place, just like you might do with a person. You will never be disappointed. You will also have a lot of great stories to tell.
I thank each and every one of you for this chance for us to visit. Soon I will once again be sharing the work of some of the world’s finest photographers with you.
John 10:10, 11 The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly. I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep. Jesus Christ
God Bless, Wayne