When I post photos of the wildlife I’ve taken on the internet or show them to friends and family, they often elicit comments along the lines of, ” You sure were lucky to see that”, or ” I can’t believe you saw that”. Renowned entrepreneur and venture capitalist Peter Thiel once said, “I am a great believer in luck. The harder I work, the more of it I seem to have”. People who aren’t wildlife photographers don’t understand that finding wildlife to photograph is not random or by chance in most cases. It instead takes significant work to put yourself in the right place at the right time. In effect, luck favors the prepared wildlife photographer.
Often as wildlife photographers we spend considerable time, effort and money pursuing our passion. We travel to National Parks and Wildlife Preserves believing that these are the only places we will find wildlife to photograph. I have a trip to Yellowstone this fall that I’ve been planning for almost two years. Sometimes though, you find wildlife opportunities in places you travel to for other reasons and where you would least expect.
While certain breeds of dogs occasionally climb trees it is certainly an unusual behaviour for most. Dogs primarily prey on animals that live on the ground and therefore have not evolutionarily developed the skills and anatomy to climb trees well. Cats have strong backs and hind legs with sharp retractable claws which are well suited for tree climbing. Dogs have weak backs and dull claws. The exception to the rule in the dog family is the Gray Fox.
Walking the trail this morning I thought to myself that this may be the first morning that I just don’t see anything really worth shooting. It’s unusual to visit our local wildlife preserve and not see a variety of birds that change throughout the seasons. Most everytime I go out I find something to shoot. It’s been dry in West Texas for several months and the playa lake at the preserve is almost dry. This has a significant effect on both the amount and variety of birds that visit. I was almost completely around the trail and had only seen a few Redwing Blackbirds.
Have you ever wanted to go somewhere on vacation and spend all day taking wildlife photographs but weren’t exactly into roughing it. Maybe your spouse isn’t all that excited to spend the day watching you stare at a bird, waiting to take that perfect photo. If that sounds familiar, do I have the trip for you.
We use this saying around my house anytime someone doesn’t know how to work something. It has its origin in the movie Pretty Woman. In the scene at the opera, Julia Roberts doesn’t know how to use her opera glasses and famously says ” Mine are broken”, only to have Richard Gere show her the proper way to use them. I read so many photography forum posts on the internet from people blaming their equipment for their blurry out of focus wildlife photos and assuming their lens or camera is not working properly. I suspect the majority of the time they haven’t spent the necessary time and effort to learn how to use their expensive new camera equipment properly.
It doesn’t often snow in West Texas, but strange things happen, and if you live long enough you’ll see some of them. This winter we have an unusual visitor to West Texas, a Snowy Owl. In early December I was out with another photographer at our local wildlife preserve taking photos of Herons when he told me his daughter had seen a large white owl in the parking lot of their church the day before. I told him it was most likely a barn owl as they are native to the area and can be white or very light in color. When he pulled out his phone and showed me a video she had taken I could hardly believe what I was seeing. To my disbelief the video showed a large Snowy Owl.
Was out this afternoon looking for things to shoot. I didn’t come across Wile E Coyote but I did I come across a Road Runner or Chaparral. According to the Audubon website, the roadrunner is the most famous bird in the southwest, featured in folklore and cartoons, known by its long tail and expressive crest. The Roadrunner walks and runs on the ground, flying only when necessary. It can run 15 miles per hour, probably with much faster spurts when chasing a fast-running lizard or other prey. Its prowess as a rattlesnake fighter has been much exaggerated, but it does eat a remarkable variety of smaller creatures.
When we were kids we all loved to play hide and seek. Finding a good hiding place was not always easy. Hiding from wildlife can be just as difficult, but doing it well can improve your chances of getting some truly amazing photos. The debate about the effectiveness of camouflage for wildlife photography seems to vary from what you read to who you talk to. It’s funny because the camouflage clothing industry thrives with the hunting community who have seemingly accepted its effectiveness for years. I’ve personally experienced the effectiveness of camouflage use in wildlife photography and don’t need much convincing. I don’t think that visual camouflage will make you a better photographer but if used properly it will improve your opportunities.
The local wildlife preserve has an unusually diverse flora and fauna given its size and location. One mammal that is native to West Texas and the preserve and always a treat to see, is the Bobcat. On most days I arrive just before sunrise in order to increase my chances of seeing one but today I was a bit later due to heavy fog. Shortly after arriving, walking down the trail, I noticed movement and discovered a single mature Bobcat was ahead of me on the trail.