Wildlife Photography Tips 54- Knowledge is Your Friend

The art of capturing "Good" Nature photos, in this case wildlife, presents itself as an argument for the best equipment. The art of "Great" wildlife imagery is illustrated by the photographer who is willing to study the subject and not rely on the equipment to "chase down" the image.

What do I mean? How many, many times have I heard from individuals, "If I had a camera and lens like yours, I could get shots like those as well". Maybe yes, but in the real world, the truth is "no you wouldn't". Why? Having better equipment will not help you to locate specific habit for the male Leopard lizard in breeding colors. Neither will it assist you in capturing the brief glimpse of the American Dipper as is dives into the watery door to its hidden nest.

There are many techniques used in wildlife captures. But the first and foremost skill you have to own and use with regularity is patience. Observing is not looking at the wildlife. It is collecting information about the subject. When I find an active subject I immediately set up and watch the animal. It may be only a few minutes if the animal departs, but I often stay 10 or 15 minutes longer. But why? Here is an example.

American Robin Collecting Nest Materials

While out hiking with my camera and tripod, I spotted an American Robin(above photo). It spotted me and quickly departed. But was I looking, or collecting? I was collecting. The animal I was just observing was picking and poking around in a very specific location. It grasped a few tufts of dried grass and flew away. I now had a bit of information about this bird I didn't have a few minutes prior. I sat, I waited. The bird appeared 5 minutes later and collected a few more bits of moss from the same site, looked around, and took off in the same direction as before. More observing just provided me with information that this bird might be nest building and what direction the nest in found. So I followed it with my eyes and then relocated in the direction of its departure. I stop when I lost sight of the bird, but again I waited patiently. Several minutes later, another trip, and then another. Each trip provided me with a closer point to the actual nest. I followed patiently.

After a brief series of stop and go starts, I was now at the nest site area(photo below). I situated myself a good distance away to observe the animal while it worked, yet close enough for the bird to get use to me. Over the next couple of hours I was able to capture great shots, and not grab shots from a passing moment.

Sometimes individual species take only minutes from sighting to image capture, others might require days, or longer. The spider (below) is an example of just being patient. I spotted this arachnid on the top surface of a leaf as it was diving behind the leaf at the same moment I spotted him. Waiting patiently for a few minutes paid off when a fly flew onto the leaf and the spider came back out to grab its prey, I was able to get my capture and so was the spider.

One last thing about waiting patiently. While I wait, I am not thinking about who will be in the next World Series, any of my old girlfriends, or even what I am having for dinner that night. What I am doing is planning and outlining my strategy for shooting the subject when it is right. I am viewing the shooting location, the light direction, the camera settings I am going to be using, and even the best spot for my shooting. Observe the angle from which the animal approach or antisipate which direction of arrival.. Which branches, rocks, limbs, etc., does it prefer to rest, hop onto before continuing on. These are all considerations you can think about to anticipate where and how the next photo is taken.

The next bog will cover another technique in wildlife capture. In the mean time, stop... and observe the wildlife. Be a collector of information before camera pursuit takes place. The reward is often much greater than attempting to chase down everything you spot. Animals survive because they are aware of their surroundings. Make yourself aware of your surroundings for your next capture. Happy shooting.

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