Wildlife Photography Tips – Part 2

By guest blog contributor Jenise Jensen.

So you’ve scouted a good location with high potential of spotting some wildlife. With your camera in-hand, it’s now time to attempt capturing that amazing image of a moose, a mountain goat family, etc. The below tips will help in your quest for success, and more importantly, help you be safe while capturing that magical moment:

1) First things first. Set your camera to the following settings. We’ll touch more on camera settings in future posts, but for now the below is an excellent starting point.

  • Set your ISO to AUTO
  • Set your Mode Dial on SHUTTER PRIORITY & start with a minimum of 1/320 sec.
  • Set your Drive mode to CONTINUOUS
  • Set your Autofocus mode to CONTINUOUS
  • Set your AF point to center or selectable, the key here is to attempt to focus on the animal’s eyes

Make sure your focus setting is on “continuous” so that if a bird moves or flies off, you can still get a sharp shot!

2) They’re called wildlife for a reason….drumroll please…..they are WILD. Start with an extra helping of common sense: they are not pets. That means you don’t feed them, get too close to them, try to pet them, or turn your back on them. They move fast when THEY want to. Why did the ram cross the road? Because he wanted to and you can just wait. Please, we don’t want to hear about you on the evening news. Use some common sense and give them some distance.

3) Mealtime is the golden hour: Just like us, animals get hungry. They don’t visit restaurants at meal time, they go out looking for their meals at about the same times we do, especially at dusk and dawn. Depending upon your camera gear and photo skills, it can be difficult to get great shots in low light. Early morning light can work well. Get up a little earlier and look carefully around, you might be surprised at who or what you find!

4) Stretch your horizons: Birds and marine habitat are easily captured at the beach, but most four-legged animals aren’t looking to run into us. So they tend to be in areas that are quiet, with bushes and trees, and shade to hide them. Foxes like to make dens in old deserted barns and hillsides. Moose can be spotted in the woods. Big Horn Sheep are abundant in Georgetown, Colorado and mountain goats can be found…..yep, on top of mountains.

Animals watch us as much as we watch them. They typically know we are around before we know they are. Stay alert.

5) Be Aware: listen carefully when you are on a trail or in the woods, even after you spot your subject. You may have spotted a small herd of goats or sheep and your camera’s shutter is quietly clicking away. Listen carefully. Sometimes stragglers may decide to join the party fashionably late. And those boulders that are alongside the road where the sheep and goats live? They weren’t planted. They came rolling down….and they might come rolling down on you. Perhaps mother nature loosened the boulder that came flying at me, or perhaps there was a lone Billy Goat up there that was playing target practice by kicking that boulder towards me. We’ll never know. Because I was listening and heard it before it came at me. You’ve been warned.

6) Inside voices are the best. Or better yet, none at all. The quieter you can be, the better your chances of not spooking them. Move quietly and slowly as you try to capture that perfect photo. Avoid walking or looking directly at wildlife.

7) Beware of babies. No, not yours, theirs. Be extra careful if you are fortunate enough to see a mother with a baby. Just like all Moms, mothers in the animal kingdom want to protect their children. Leave extra space and distance in these situations.

JeniseJensen Fighting Foxes-8616_BThese adult foxes had a serious disagreement one morning. Knowing your exit strategy should an animal become agitated is an important safety consideration.

8) The closest exit may be located….where? Hopefully you get lucky and find a great photo op with the wild animal of your choice. You remember #2 about how they are WILD, right? Think in advance about how you can retreat should that cute animal all of a sudden turn into a not-so-cute-animal. With fangs. Or big hooves. Heading straight for you. Keep a large tree or object between you and that animal. I’ve been told that climbing a tree is like riding a bike…it will come back to you if needed.

9) Rewind: If you see that fox, moose or beaver, and you don’t have your camera with you, try again the next day. Make note of the location and time of day and return. Some animals are creatures of habit, particularly foxes, and you might just get a second chance at getting that photo.

Tourists visit California and Colorado to take advantage of the beautiful landscapes and natural environment. If you live in these states, you should be able to have “staycation” photos of wildlife all year long. But beware, your friends and family will start asking to visit more often and asking that you take them out to “just get a few photos”. But that’s ok, because you’ll get some more amazing photos to add to your collection!

Jenise Jensen Geese 6.12.15-2211_B

JeniseJensen Moose Breck-7270_B

Jenise Jensen Birds-1946_B

JeniseJensen Mule Deer Georgetown-0100_B

READ Wildlife Photography Tips – Part 1

read wildlife photography tips – Part 3

About the photographer:

Jenise Jensen enjoys sharing the beauty and opportunities of living in Summit County Colorado, having lived and worked in the area for 15 years. In her recreational time she can be found skiing, hanging out with her rescued (and aptly named) canine pal “Lucky,” or strolling around town with a camera. Jenise is passionate about capturing the beauty of Summit County and her work is featured in a variety of local magazines and the Summit Daily News. To see more of her work, visit www.JeniseJensen.com or visit Get Real Bazaar in Breckenridge.  

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