WHO CAN TAKE PICTURES OF WILDLIFE? Anyone who wants to photograph wildlife can do so. This may seem like an easy answer to some people but the reality is many people feel wildlife photography is for the professional photographer or someone on television. And although I am not the best photographer in the world I can also say I am not the worst. Even if I were the worst I would still take wildlife shots. So I suppose the point is pointless. I learn more about photography everyday. And lesson number one is that anyone can take wildlife pictures without training or academic approval. You can learn great things in class so don’t overlook education, but WildlifeShot.com was created to help motivate people to take more wildlife pictures without getting wrapped around “the best shot” or whether your photo is worth sharing or not. They all have their place so click on and share away!! Taking pictures of wildlife can be as simple as a quick drive to a local park and shooting birds or squirrels running around. Or climb a high mountain somewhere and look for big horn sheep.
WHO TAUGHT YOU TO TAKE PICTURES OF WILDLIFE? I have yet to take an official photography course, which I plan to do eventually when I can get to it. Ultimately I taught myself how to photograph over the years organically starting with basic film cameras then I went to a pocket digital that used multiple AA batteries and a 100-megabyte card memory card. Then cell phones came about and eventually the smart phone took over with amazing camera capabilities that continue to increase. Now I use my DSLR Pentax K-3 and my cell phone as a backup. Over the years I just kept taking photos and looking for that amazing shot that I felt was awesome enough to brag about.
WHAT KIND OF WILDLIFE CAN I TAKE A PICTURE OF? There are no limitations to wildlife photography and it’s a great reason to just get out and see what’s around. There are plenty of animals in the world to take pictures of. Going on a trip and documenting the animals and scenery is by far the best thing. Its been said (at least in this post) that birds in flight are the hardest photographs to capture. Unfortunately (and fortunately) I decided to start off with photographing birds. I say this because it’s not easy but very rewarding. Bigger birds are easier then smaller birds and I have shot both and learned a great deal. You can find birds in your backyard or travel far away to catch rare birds. Other wildlife includes bugs found on plants or spiders, snakes and all the rest. One day I came across an entire group of deer feeding in a field at sunset and managed to capture awesome photos. Another time I took pictures of my black labrador (Sammie) running on the riverbank catching her in full motion allowing me to see what my natural eye never sees.
WHAT SHOULD I BE AWARE OF WHEN SHOOTING WILDLIFE PHOTOGRAPHY? There is one very important rule and that is to NEVER, EVER DISTURB the animal(s). In most cases the animal is conditioned to the routine of people visiting, children crying, cars driving by, and all the rest. The animal is conditioned to the routine but your attempt to interact becomes more of an assault and they will react in one way or another. Generally the animal(s) will evade you by flying away or running away. Over time you tune in to their body language and realize you’re too close and you naturally want to just photograph them without trying to train them or get them to react to you. The next rule or situation is to watch out for land access or making sure you are not on private property. This is one of many reasons why a long-zoom-lens is helpful because you can still manage to capture amazing shots from your vehicle if property access is an issue. You can also capture shots from the fence line into the property or across a valley.
WHAT ARE THE BEST SHOTS? The best shots I think are when you’re observing the animal in their habitat and you’re taking a photo without influence. Simply let the animal be, observe, and click away. Being fast to react to wildlife is a benefit. For example one time while I was walking in a nature preserve a set of large white birds began to fight in the tree canopy and popped up about 30 feet above the trees screaming. By the time I was able to get the shot they where too far away and the detail was lost. Being in the right place at the right time is not always enough, you have to also be able to respond and capture the event. While shooting deer, for example, their body language can tell you if they’re tense or relaxed and the type of shooting you can anticipate.
WHAT KIND OF EQUIPMENT DO YOU USE? I shoot a Pentax K-3 and an 18-135 lens and a 55-300 lens, which is weather resistant and built for durability. My research showed this camera matches my needs for outdoor exposure and I have had absolutely no regrets. I have used my camera in rain (capturing rain drops), in the snow, wind, sand, the Sierra Mountains, ocean breeze and mist, and recently on Mount Rainer (Active Volcano, WA USA). The debate over the best camera seems to be similar to car talk or geek talk when people compare their favorite whatever. Keep in mind that you can have the best capable equipment in the world and even the most expensive but if you’re not having fun or if it doesn’t fit you or keep up with your activity then its already lost appeal.
WHEN SHOULD I TAKE PICTURES OF WILDLIFE? The morning time seems to be the most successful for me. Of course I’m mainly shooting birds and they become super active as the sun rises (depending on the breed). Deer and other larger wildlife move around more in the evening time unless there is an overcast in which they may be more active in late afternoon too. The rule I made up is that as long as you get the shot, anytime is good. Kind of like fishing is never a bad trip with or without a catch. I recently tried to capture bats in the desert sky during the evening, while waiting for the sun to fall, but the shots where too difficult and require better precision and planning. But I tried it anyway.
WHERE CAN I TAKE PICTURES OF WILDLIFE? You don’t have to go very far at all. A park is a great location because not only do people congregate there but animals do as well. With the Internet you can search for local animal sanctuaries or refuge areas that provide open space and long-term habitat for rare species. It’s becoming a common place for cities to turn wetlands or water holdings into a park type structure for public enjoyment. You do have to be careful when people are around because not everyone is a fan of photographers. I haven’t personally been approached or asked to stop but I have received uncomfortable looks from property owners and people around the area. They don’t realize that I’m shooting animals and absolutely do not want them in the shot. I try to position myself away from people to try and limit their influence.
WHY TAKE PICTURES OF WILDLIFE? In my opinion photographing wildlife is an absolute honor. For a wild animal to allow me to closely watch them and photograph their life is amazing. I do realize that animals don’t know what I’m doing but they do know I am there and that’s the point. They know I’m around and it’s okay. The other piece to the puzzle is being able to study or document the animal. I’m not conducting a formal scientific study but I am studying the animal through the lens and when I review the pictures. Together I’m constantly amazed at what God has created and thankful to be a part of it. My photos have also provided a smile on the face of others and created anticipation for more of Gods great work.
HOW CAN I TAKE PICTURES OF WILDLIFE? Grab a camera and head to the park and click away. Honestly that is the best way to start and then you will work your way up to better technology with a idea of photography that suits you. I originally took pictures of bees and fly’s on plants a few years ago with my pocket digital camera. In fact most people tell me that its no surprise that I love photography because I have always taken pictures!
We would really like to hear any comments or questions you may have.
Talk to you soon! -Henry Brening