Nature Notes: Wild Nature photography

<I>CRAIG SPARKS photo</I><BR>North Head Lighthouse appears to glow on its cliff in this atmospheric photo of a famous Peninsula attraction.

How many times have you watched those spectacular blue herons taking off from the mudflats on the bay, or Canada geese flying overhead in the familar "V" patterns and wished you had a picture of them? And perhaps just about as often, when we do get out and take those pictures, they are disappointing and don't really capture the "wild" moment?

While nothing short of practice will make you a better wildlife photo person, there are a few things you can add to your bag of tricks that will help capture those wild critters.

I gave up photography using 35 millimeter film years ago in favor of digital photography, not because digital cameras have superior image quality (they don't), but rather because they are so much easier and more versatile to use. Digital cameras will let you shoot as many pictures as the camera's memory card will allow (usually around 50 shots, depending on user-selected degree of photo resolution), which translates to shooting picture after picture with no thought to film costs or processing headaches and no consideration at all of having your hard-won photos come back from the one-hour photo shop all red and blurry and glossy, when you ordered matte finish.

But besides the logistical side of the cameras, there is much that can be done with photos captured digitally and then are transferred to computers for compiling, sorting and storage.

My photos and negatives were always in a bit of a mess and seldom did I have very much organization to my photo work, with prints here and there and a "have you seen that negative of the swan anywhere around here?" kind of order. But with the advent of digital photos, all that is changed. The storage of photos in an orderly manner on you computer desktop is easy and fast and makes for a much more enjoyable hobby when you can find the photo you're looking for at the tip of your fingers.

Out in the field, ambient light is everything and this time of year as winter approaches, the low-angle sunlight is warm and reddish. Good for rendering photos of people and critters alike. Grasses are inviting and trees have something to offer other than blankets of solid green. Reds and golds and yellows mixed with grays and blues and blacks make the late fall perfect for digital photography.

Low light later in the day signals the end of your photo session as the digital camera's weak link is failing light. If there isn't enough light, the camera just can't quite compensate. But hey, if you know that, don't push it and your photos will be just fine.

More on wildlife photography next week!

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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