Nature Notes: Wild nature photography: Part 2

<I>CRAIG SPARKS photo</I><BR>Canada geese snooze by a local lake. The key to capturing such scenes is to be present when they happen, which entails lots of patience and a willingness to get up before dawn.

The first rule of wildlife/nature photography is deceptively simple: you have to be out there to get the photos. Seems simple enough, but really spectacular photos and video are had, often times, by just waiting (and waiting) and being ready when your photo subjects show up.

Be it formations of geese letting down to land on the mirror smooth pond in front of your camera, or the early morning mists parting long enough to reveal that perfect watercolor look, or a blue heron on the perfect log in perfect light - you must wait.

Having good equipment is a big help, but no equipment will help a late sleeper capture sunrise colors with otters, and ducks and huge foreground surf.

More times than not, opportunity shows itself a few seconds before it's picture time. Ducks swimming toward you or cormorants flying low in formation directly toward your camera position. Your photo subjects may show moments ahead of where you can photo them. Interaction between animals and where they live are often spontaneous, but many have a few seconds lead time on which you can plan terrific photos. If that diving duck goes down and comes back up again time after time right in front of you, then it's all in the timing and you have only to get in "sync" with its rhythms.

The same is true for birds of all kinds. They have very definite patterns, speeds and behaviors. We have but only to look and to really see. Aye, there's the rub, looking and seeing.

Really getting a feel for what your animal friends are likely to do in the next moment or two can prepare you and your equipment for outstanding photos. Birds almost always land into the wind, be it ducks or geese or seagulls or pelicans. They usually turn and make their final approach into the wind and by knowing this, you can be prepared.

The four-legged guys will commonly position themselves in a manner to flee as they watch you struggling to take their picture, but they also generally stop and look back over their shoulder at you for a quick final look before they beat feet. That last look may be your only photo opportunity.

Much is made about composition in photographs and video, but in truth, good camera handling, being prepared to actually snap the photo and just waiting for the right instant is the magic combination.

Simply put, be prepared and be patient. Keep your eyes and ears open for developing situations in front of your camera and remember, the wildlife/nature show is always on, you just have to show up with your mind, your heart and your camera.

Check out our new weekly nature movie at ( Craig Sparks is director of NAWA, a filmmaker, freelance writer and wildlife rehabilitator.

Found injured wildlife? Questions? Call the Wildlife Center at 503-338-3954 or send an e-mail to

High-quality photo reprints from Nature Notes can be found online at

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