The Tricky Art of Photographing Wildlife

Posted on June 18, 2011


Recently I had the opportunity to spend some quality time at my parent’s home for a long (and much needed) weekend.  They live on sprawling farmland surrounded by woods.  Being immersed in nature as they are, a 4 seasons room is necessary and for me, the perfect venue to try my hand at photographing wildlife (open the windows, sit on the couch, aim your camera, and pray the wildlife does not enter into the room).  Since my parents are avid bird lovers, there were numerous opportunities to photograph tons of beautiful birds.  Who knew that Orioles loved grape jelly?

Throughout the weekend I learned some valuable tips about shooting wildlife photography and I’d like to share them with you:

1. A telephoto lens is a must … wild animals do not like people that close to them and birds are especially sensitive!  The sound of the camera taking a photo is enough to scare all of them away.
2. A tripod is also vital … telephoto lenses are heavy and a lot of times photographing animals is a waiting game. Trust me when I say that your arm will get tired.
3. Find a spot and focus your camera there … Scoping out your surroundings is key.  For example I knew that there was a lot of activity around the feeders and that grape jelly, so I mounted my camera and focused it on the spot – that way I was ready for the precise moment the birds arrived.
4. Patience is definitely a virtue … I cannot tell you how many hours I sat and waited.  Granted these were peaceful stress-free hours, but the birds knew I was there.  Insert some hilarious moments where I tried to hide myself under blankets, etc in order to get a good shot.
5. Out of many photos, many hours, you may find one good shot … This is a reoccurring theme in my blog, but one that inevitably holds true – even more so it seems in nature photography.

Now I understand that sitting in my parents sunroom in my PJs waiting for birds to eat grape jelly is not true wildlife photography – but I’m a novice and somewhat lazy.  Since this was my first adventure into the realm, I would hope you die hards out there will cut me some slack.  For those of you looking to try it, I recommend the tips above and starting out small.  Let me know what you think of the shots and please visit my FlickR Feed to the right for the rest of the wildlife shots.  Enjoy!

As always 🙂
A.L. Kohlmann

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