Wildlife Photography: Go where the action is!
Wildlife photography is all about being in the right place at the right time. Without wildlife, it is no longer wildlife photography. But what is the concept of "right place and right time"
Mostly, it is a matter of education and research. But, you can read about an animal till you are blue in the face (that would make an interesting photo, your blue face) and not know any more than you knew when you started your study. You also need to know "what you need to know".
So here are some clues:
1. Animals look there best at breeding time; find out when they breed. For the large four legged animals like Deer, Moose, Elk; breeding time is called Rut. For birds, it is usually spring time; sometimes early spring if it is a warmer climate and sometimes late spring if they breed where it is not warm.
2. Find out where they breed; go there! For example, the Endangered California Brown Pelican looks best around January and can be seen reliability on the cliffs of La Jolla, California. With a bit more research, you will learn there is a cove near the cliffs with access to a prime shooting spot for these Pelicans. You will also learn this is a prime spot for morning photography, not so good for afternoon or evenings.
Since you are at La Jolla to photograph the pelicans and the spot for photography is mostly good only in mornings, a bit more research will tell you that the Harbor Seals are just down the road; there are ducks at Santee Lakes in nearby San Diego and Burrowing Owls in the park in nearby San Diego; now you have a morning shoot and a late afternoon shoot for January.
3. Find our where the animals feed and go there. For example, the brown bears feed on salmon every year; Salmon run upstream around mid to late August. Guess what, the best time to get good images of bears, relatively safe images, is when the bears are busy feeding on salmon. Trying to photograph a bear in April that has just emerged from six months of hibernation when the ground is still white with snow and the food is less than plentiful is asking to be a major part of the food chain. Not long ago, a photographer was eaten by bears in Far East Russia when he did not heed this advice; don't be around bears when there is no food to eat!
4. Become creative. I am not a landscape photographer; a short visit to my portfolio will show you that I photograph animals, not landscapes. For me, landscapes are background! You know what, sometimes, these scenic landscapes make pretty good backgrounds. Go to these iconic places with these beautiful landscapes and put an animal in front of the landscape; you have an instant success.
5. You say, but I am a poor photographer with no money to travel; I must work to support my family; I live in a hovel in the woods; I walk three miles in six feet of snow each day-up hill both ways; and so on. Big deal, it is -47 here in Far East Russia and I managed to get out and photograph a Ural Owl. So, cut the excuses and bring the wildlife to you. Can you afford a small bag of sunflower seeds; wow, instant success? No need for fancy bird-feeders. Just cut the bottom of a coke bottle, hang the bottom part with string, wire, zip ties, whatever to a tree limb and wait for the birds to start piling in for seed. It is best if you are hidden in a blind or tent; if you have neither, throw a dark sheet or blanket over yourself and camera gear; anything to hide the human form.
So let's get out there and have some fun!
Photo credits: Moose Henderson.