Wildlife Photography| Get Closer | New York
Most of the photography gear that I have and use the most are tools that I have had for a long time. I have chosen these particular tools for a reason. I really like the photographs I am able to create with these tools. It doesn’t mean that there are never times I wish I had other tools available to me.
For my wildlife photography I mostly use a 300mm lens with a 1.4 tele converter. It is the perfect tool for almost anything I want to do. It is especially good for me because it is relatively small and allows me to move around easily which is what I really like to do.
But, there are times I wish I had a bigger lens that allowed me to get a closer look at my subjects from farther away. But would I really ever use that big heavy lens that I would have to lug around? Do I even really need that lens for the type of photography I want to create?
Mostly the answer to that is no.
You Can Get Closer
A lot of the time you can get closer to your subject without needing a big powerful lens, unless it is unsafe for you or the subject. However, to do so often requires time and patience.
Take Your Time
One reason that it is hard to get close to wildlife is because we scare them away. How do I get close to wildlife without scaring them away? I take my time. When I see a subject I want to photograph I don’t just run up to it and try to get a photo really quick before it can run or fly away. When you see wildlife you want to photograph approach slowly and cautiously.
Observe The Wildlife
Wildlife is wary of humans. I watch how my subject is behaving to get clues as to how my behavior is affecting it. Is the subject paying attention to what I’m are doing or ignoring me? Does the subject appear agitated or uncomfortable? Have I ruffled their feathers? You can take this very literally with birds sometimes. If the subject I want to photograph is ignoring me and going about its normal behavior such as grooming or looking for food then it is probably safe to move a little closer.
Move A Little At A Time
When trying to get close to an animal it is best to move only a little closer at a time to make sure you do not scare the animal. The amount you can move depends a lot on what type of animal it is. Some animals are more wary of humans and therefore are more easily scared off if you try to approach too quickly. Also as I get closer, the closer I am the smaller and smaller the distance I can continue to move at one time without disturbing the subject gets.
Allow The Animal Time To Adjust To Your Presence
Often as I move closer to wildlife they will turn their attention to me to make sure I am not a threat to them. They may freeze and stop what they were doing. The animal will often give clear signs that it has turned its eye to you, much like The Eye of Sauron. You must wait for the eye’s gaze to pass so that you do not draw attention to yourself. It is best not to move when the eye is upon you. Allow the animal time to adjust to the presence of a human and then they will get comfortable. The animal will stop feeling threatened and their attention will leave you and go back to whatever behavior they would be naturally engaged in. Once the animal has had time to adjust to my presence and return to its business at hand I will give it a little extra time and then begin to move closer again, ever so slowly. Whenever I move I am paying attention to the animal so I am aware as soon as they start paying attention to me so I can freeze whenever they do and allow them to adjust to my presence.
Photographing a Turtle
I saw this turtle and new that in my experience turtles are easily scared into retreating back into the water for safety. I got as close as I thought was prudent at first and I watched and I waited. Then I moved a little closer and waited again. And then I moved and I waited. Slowly, cautiously moving closer and closer. I managed to not scare the turtle away and I was able to get probably the most interesting photographs of a turtle I have ever captured.
One key in this process for me is that each time I move I take a series of photographs in each position and distance I arrive at. I have two reasons for this. First you never know when some really interesting actions that creates an amazing photograph will happen. It could happen before you are as close as you want to get, but still allow you to capture a great image. And the second reason I constantly shoot while I approach is that it is very possible that I may make a mistake and scare the subject away before I get as close as I would like. But, if I take photos along the way I still will be able to create a bunch of nice images.
One this occasion I think I played my hand pretty well. I moved cautiously and created images along the way. I did not scare the subject away. I was even able to get up and leave and the turtle stayed right where it was enjoying the sunlight.
I added three photos of this painted turtle to my Animals Gallery.
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