tips on shooting or viewing wildlife

after having spent a couple of days driving thru cades cove. i watched the tourons (tourists) literally chase after the wildlife. happy they had put a bear up a tree, this of course infuriated me.
so i thought about giving some tips, on how to view wildlife, and photograph it.
of course this is what i have learnt, being right there with the animals, im sure others will have their own techniques, but id thought id share mine, and let out alittle rant as well :)

first thing, people should respect wildlife, not fear it. they should realize they are in the animal’s home. it isnt a zoo, or a set up and these animals are Not trained to tolerate humans around. think of how you’d feel if someone charged you, had a camera trying to put it in your face, and chase you til they think they got the shot, no one would appreciate it, animals are the same way….so have respect

when you do see wildlife, be Very Quiet, DO NOT Charge them!! remember they can move twice the speed you can, most would attempt to run away, but if provoked long enough, they will protect themselves and their young if any are around. So move Very Slow, keep a good distance. Yes i know its very hard to do, i experience it all the time, wanting that Shot, however, i do realize, i move to fast, or get too close. i risk losing my shot by making animal take off, i risk having the animal having been fed up with humans chasing it actually charge me. the photog in me, of course wants that Clear Shot, however the animal lover in me, is willing to risk that Clear shot, and enjoy the fact im able to be close enough, it trust me, and go about its business….the ulitimate shot will come if it’s meant to happen.

if you watch the animal close enough, you can tell by it’s body movements, where it wants to go, what it plans on doing. if it’s upset, or ok with you around. whitetail deer will start flicking their tails quite fast in signs of danger, black bear will sniff the air when wanting to head in a certain direction. pay attention to body motions, like us, they use their bodies to communicate also. if you listen closely to how the birds are singing, you can also get signs from that as well. you can tell if they feel danger is around, something is around their nest, or just happy chirping

when shooting wildlife, i recommend to Always be in shutterspeed priority. i usually start out at 200 and go up from there. remember they are always moving, they arent trained to sit and pose for us. so keep camera in SS priority. even when they are sitting still believe it or not, they are moving, you will see that later on when you check out your photos.
of course the ideal situtation is to have them in a clearing , with good lighting. however, it doesnt always turn out that way. sometimes you have to go into the woods, which means lighting isnt as bright.
i suggest adjusting the ISO , take a few shots, just to get an idea of what the shot will look like. bright side about digital, you can delete. when im in the woods, as my light changes, after hiking a few yards, i will do another test shot, making the adjustments with the ISO and the exposure bias. remember to stay in SS mode, regardless. its a bummer when you finally come up along a wild animal, and the shot turns out blurry, due to going to another mode.

when you see the animal after hiking some, stay still!! even tho they might not be looking at you, they can smell you. bears(for example) can smell you up to 14days after you have gone. so just stand abit, move very very slow, attempting to get a clear spot with decent lighting. it’s also a good time to do a quick test shot to make sure your settings are good for a nice clear shot just in case it moves your way and you can get a close up.

i used to avoid going to a high ISO, but i realized, it helps my lighting, thats the most important thing in photography, matter of fact that is what photography is all about..the lighting. so adjust if needed, go up alittle at a time. i personally dont like going to my highest ISO of 1600, just too much grain, so the max ill go if i have 800. of course you decide on your situtation, all are different.

in time the animal will turn to look at you..STAY STILL!!! if you’re with NOT talk! they do hear very well. any sudden movements or sounds can make them take off. they can go a 100yards in no time.

Think when following a animal!! i know from experience, black bears will get you to follow, and then backtrack, disappearing into the woods, and you’re further then expected. so be aware of how far you’re going into the woods. and of course always be aware of your surroundings
there have been many times, like this morning for example. the bear gets into the woods, lighting just isnt right, even after adjustments on camera, thats when you just enjoy the moment with your eyes, absorbing the fact you were able to witness a wild animal in its habitat.
my best experience so far is the day, a few weeks ago, when some tourons ran two cubs up a tree. lucky for me, their batteries ran out and one ran out of film :) as they left i kept my spot, nope it wasnt the very best spot, a lot of high grass. however, the cubs came out of the tree, well aware of me there. i was probably about 30-40feet from them, i kept still, quiet, and of course eye at the viewfinder. they started wrestling, yep got a few good shots of it, most tho are in my personal folder, of just having that wonderful experience. id say about a hour had passed til they got tired of playing and got hungry and moved on. totally awesome experience!!

another opportunity i had about a month ago, i had seen some bear, could tell the direction they were heading. i figured as long as any tourons didnt make them go into a different direction by charging/chasing them, they would come right to where i stood and waited. i was very happy thats exactly what happened :) i stood still as the cubs approached me, had been doing test shots the whole time. had a good SS on, high ISO of 800, exposure bias set at it’s highest, and started shooting. i just stayed on the shutterbutton, i got some of the best bear shots to date, those cubs came within 15feet of me. when one decided to move alittle closer, i SLowly moved my tripod, to make it go away. which it did, another awesome experience

so if you’re a nature lover, wildlife photog, or just someone who gets that chance to shoot wildlife, just remember..RESPECT is the key to getting some awesome shots. im hoping some of my tips can help anyone interested, and of course if anyone else has any tips, please feel free to share them :)

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  • Craig Goldsmith
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