“A Passion for Wildlife Photography, the Stories Behind the Images” (Part 4)


LOCATIONS (PART 4)

Several of the best locations to photograph wildlife are ones where the animals are acclimated to the presence of people or vehicles. These include county, state, and national parks, wildlife refuges & sanctuaries, and eco-friendly ranches (South Texas & South America). In terms of wildlife refuges, I tend to favor those with roads that run along the dikes that separate the impoundments. Parallel to the roads are ditches that typically hold water even when the other ponds are dry and therefore attract wading birds and other wildlife. If these channels are close to the road and vegetation does not block the view, photos of the animals can be taken easily from the car. The vehicle serves as a mobile blind that allows you to move along with the subject and adjust your angle of view and distance. To photograph out the car window, I place the telephoto lens on one or two large home-made bean bags filled with rice which I place on the window sill.  You can also purchase bags from Lens Coat http://www.lenscoat.com , Birds as Art https://store.birdsasart.com or other suppliers. Two of my favorite wildlife refuges that are perfect for this style of shooting are Chincoteague NWR and Bosque del Apache NWR. http://www.fws.gov/refuge/chincoteague/ & http://www.fws.gov/refuge/bosque_del_apache/

PHOTOGRAPHY FROM A VEHICLE

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Snow goose, shot from the car on the Loop Rd. @ Chincoteague. NWR, VA
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Mallard family in a row. Shot from the car in Chincoteague NWR, VA.
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Northern Harrier consuming a duck. Shot from rental car in Bosque del Apache, NM.

PRIVATE RANCHES

Eco-friendly ranches that protect native species and habitat such as those in South Texas, Argentina and Brazil often cater to photographers. These offer excellent opportunities to photograph from vehicles, blinds, or even on foot. (Discussion of blinds in later blog)

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Rosette Spoonbill feeding in pond on private ranch in Texas. Photographed from a blind.
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Caiman resting on bank at private ranch in Argentina.
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Photographed late in the afternoon on Sea Lion Island in the Falkland Islands

HIKING

Photographing while randomly hiking in your local woods often fails to provide satisfactory result. The animals flee before you are within shooting distance. However if the habitat attracts wildlife and the animals are protected, they sometimes become acclimated to seeing people on foot . Corkscrew Swamp http://corkscrew.audubon.org and Six Mile Cypress Slough Preserve in South Florida with their boardwalks are often worth a visit as well as Loxahatchee NWR.  Hiking in other locations such as Yellowstone NP, Glacier NP, and the Badlands of South Dakota can also be productive particularly if your subject is initially spotted from the road.  (See stalking techniques in later blogs).

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Great Blue Heron shot while I was walking along a ditch filled with water in Chincoteague NWR, VA

Raccoon photographed while walking along one of the ditches at Chincoteague, VA.

Raccoon photographed while walking along one of the ditches at Chincoteague, VA.

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Capuchin Money. Photographed while hiking along trails on hotel property  near Bonito Brazil. Semi tame since food is readily available there.

DANGER

When hiking in remote areas, care must be taken not to surprise a grazing buffalo, bear, moose and other large mammals.  Even though they may be in national parks or reserves they are still wild and potentially dangerous particularly if their young are present or if it is mating season. When photographing such animals, use long lenses to keep a safe distance from them and to isolate the subject.  Approach slowing and always leave them a means of escape. (See safety discussion in a later blog)

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White-tailed Deer buck photographed at Canaan Valley, WV many years ago while meandering throughout the meadows in search of deer to photograph.
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I was photographing a scene away from the car when I spotted this sow and cubs. I stopped and grabbed a quick shot. She bluffed charged me and I carefully  retreated to my car a little distance away. The rest of my shooting was done with my 600 mm from inside the car. A black bear with cubs can be very dangerous.
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While hiking I spotted two rams. I took my initial  photos from a distance. When they resumed their original behavior eating vegetation and slowly moving through the field, I moved a bit closer to them making sure not to pressure the animals or block its means of escape.  I spent nearly an hour following and photographing their activities.  At times they eveny closed the distance between u without alarm.

More blogs coming covering other topics relative to wildlife photgraphy.  Importance of food, water, and shelter plus timing next.