People have often asked me, ‘how do you get so close to the animals?’, or ‘where do you find them?’. It’s not rocket science. The short answer is, I go out A LOT. It’s not like the occasional trip I get lucky on. It’s a whole bunch of trips… and every once in awhile I get lucky.
Luck definitely plays a part. But the more I find myself in a situation, the more I can use my gear, the more I can practice. All these things allow me to be better prepared when an opportunity presents itself.
I do find that the storms bring out the animals, and add more interest to the photographs. So we go out after most storms, whether it’s rain, sleet or snow (kinda like the postman). Where I find certain animals, I tend to go back, hoping I’ll get lucky again.
Having warm gloves that aren’t too bulky helps, making sure I can still operate my camera. When I encountered this herd of big horn sheep after a recent snowfall, it was 19F. I could barely feel my fingers, let along depress the camera release… and that was with good gloves and hand warmers. Being prepared allowed me to stay the course and get some nice shots.
Being able to take action photos, hand held, was a matter of having had proper settings, fast enough shutter, and panning the scene and composing the photo on the fly.
I know I need more practice to continue to improve my craft and to pay attention to what I do wrong, so that I can get better. It’s always a challenge, and I welcome the opportunities that may come my way so that I can.
The more I embrace this Wildlife Photography the more I learn about what I don’t know. Much of my animals have been by luck by golly, and a product of many many outings. At the risk of stating the obvious, we are learning that you can actually ‘predict’ (as much as that is possible with wildlife) where and when the animals might be.
Their habitat will help to identify where you might find a particular animal, both in terms of weather, climate, and environment. For instance, antelope like the low plains and fields to graze on. Elk are partial to the dense wooded areas, and of course water fowl (and beaver) can be found on lakes and waterways.
If you can follow footprints and / or scat (poop) to track the animal you can lay in wait for them. All animals, particularly when rain is sparse are attracted to water holes, and in search of food. They come out early morning & evenings (or middle of the night).
If you can find their home – a nest or den – you are much more likely to be able to camp out and wait for their arrival or departure. We were lucky enough to encounter a beaver den. Sometimes they are abandoned, but fresh cut trees will lead you to where you might find them.
It’s gratifying when a plan comes together and persistence pays off. It keeps me coming back for more.
Animals shelter when the temperature drops and the snow flys. They hunker down and protect themselves from the elements and predators seeking food sources.
So when the storm is over, we go out searching for critters coming out of hiding to gather food.
I always laugh as we bundle up to be the first ones out in the fresh fallen snow looking for animals. It seems like trying to find a needle in a haystack, but we are more lucky than not, and often find a number of wildlife, and even manage to get their picture (though not always).
… and luck is the apropos sentiment, as we leave our home and debate, ‘which direction should we go today’?
I admit to being very fortunate when we go out, but we also go out a lot, are prepared for what we might encounter, and tenacious enough to keep trying even if we aren’t successful the first time. They say, fortune favors the bold, in our case it favors the tenacious photographer.
It’s amazing how many times you can go to a place, and how it changes from time to time.
We went back to Carnero Lake hoping to catch osprey fishing, but there were none to be had. Considering the amount of rain we had, we were amazed to see how low the lake actually was. It was barely photogenic. Changing our view looking through the forest toward the lake at sunrise, yielded an entirely new view.
All we saw (in terms of animals) was a juvenile robin and a squirrel collecting pinecones for the winter.
It’s just a reminder to turn around 360 degrees to take in your surroundings, and actually SEE what different vantage points can present themselves if you take the time to take it in.
We love to explore the back roads and take in the fabulous views we find along the way. We have traveled the Schnebly Hill Road on numerous occasions over the years.
The 12-mile road cuts between Flagstaff and Sedona. If one didn’t know better, they might think it a short cut. In reality, all the wind and lack of rain has continuously deteriorated the road.
You may know the road – it’s that really rough road the Pink Jeep Tours drives through out of Sedona. The bumpy road from Sedona to Schnebly Vista traverses over rugged rock shelf terrain. It takes around an hour to go just 6 miles, dependent on how much one wants to beat up your lifted truck or Jeep. It is not suited for passenger cars.
It’s not very often we see big horn sheep. But this past week we went out to take pix of the snow and ran into a herd of big horn sheep, including 7 babies. Woohoo!
I can probably count how many times I have seen big horn sheep on 1 hand. They are one of the less common big animal encounters. We were lucky enough to not only see big horn sheep, but babies… and in snow on top of that. It was like a 3-fer.
It made my day, if not my year! I was very happy to have a positive jolt of goodness in what has been a difficult time for us personally. You take joy where you can get it.
We were lucky enough to see this beautiful herd of big horn sheep as we left Alstrom Point. We saw the herd in the distance, so drove ahead of them, and I walked out behind a rock to see if I could sneak up on them. I’m not sure who was more surprised when we saw each other as I crotched down from behind a ridge – me or them. It was a fantastic moment.
Admittedly, I am not a big fan of coyote. They are scavengers and corral & hunt my precious deer and elk. So I’m just as happy not to see any. But I did this year, and got a decent photo that makes the cut.
We don’t see many fox, so I was thrilled when we saw this pup this year. So cool!
All babies are cute, especially the 4 legged animal variety!
Speaking of babies… it was super cute to get so see this affectionate family of javelina with new born babe.
And elk baby, or calf.
The next best thing to new animals (at least for us), or baby animals, are those big boys… elk bulls
The cuter and better expression, the better!
I got a ton of chipmunk pix this year, they were just too darn cute.
Deer Doe and fawn
And finally, pretty much any animal in the snow. Just wish we had more of it!