2 Conceal yourself
- Wear natural colors that blend in with the surroundings: green and brown in spring and summer, beige and tan in fall.
- Avoid items that rustle when you move and anything shiny (including glasses).
- Hide behind natural blinds, such as boulders, trees, and bushes. And don’t ignore opportunities on the way to the trailhead. Inwildlife havens like Yellowstone, you’re likely to glimpse all-star animals right from park road. Cars make very effective blinds: Pull completely off of the road ahead of the animal’s direction of travel. Open your window partway and place a jacket Or shirt between the camera and glass for cushioning.
3 Get in position
- Approach animals slowly, from downwind. You don’t want to startle them–you want them to get used to your presence. (Photographer Kennan Ward swears that turning his tripod upside down when approaching caribou makes him Look Like he has antlers.)
- Observe the animal’s direction of travel and move to where it will approach you.
- Keep a safe distance. Yellowstone National Park recommends getting no closer than 25 yards (100 yards for bears). If the animal looks alarmed of retreats, you’re too dose.
- Practice standard wildlife photography ethics. Don’t chase an animal, make noises to get it to Look at you, or interfere with its normal behavior or routine.
4 SHOOT LIKE A PRO
Zoom Point-and-shoot: Choose a camera with an optical, not digital, zoom of at least 10X for crisp dose-ups. Digital SLR: It’s not just about the focal length (but 80-400mm is a good bet). Also look for a lens with the largest aperture (lowest f/stop) you can afford. This lets you shoot at faster speeds in dim light.
Tripod Use the six- to 10-inch-long, flexible Gorillapod ($20-$50) to steady your camera on logs, trees, and rocks. Or try an adjustable trekking pole with a built-in camera support (such as TrekTech’s TrekPod Go! PRO; $230) for quick stability on the go.
Lighting Get the perfect shot by taking the same photo with several different ISOs (a measure of the camera’s light sensitivity). In dim light, try 400 to 800. Dial back to 100 to 200 in bright light.
Movement Pan your camera with the subject. Adjust shutter speed (1/30 to blur the surroundings and capture a sense of motion, 1/500 and up to stop the action), track the animal as it approaches, press the shutter gently, and continue panning for a few seconds after the shot.
5 COMPOSE THE PERFECT SHOT
Position the animal so it’s gazing toward the center of the photo. Leave “active space” for the subject to look or move into for a more dynamic shot. Exceptions: Center the subject if it’s looking or moving toward you.
Shoot from dawn until 9 a.m. and from 4 p.m. until dusk for the best natural light.
Include the environment, but avoid distracting background features (vegetation, boulders) that make the photo look cluttered.
Use the rule of thirds: Imagine three horizontal and three vertical lines across the photo, and position the animal at one of the intersections.
Squat down and photograph animals at their eye level for an intimate feel. “Catchlight” (reflection) in the eyes makes the subject look more alive.
1 Find your prey Tom Leeson, a wildlife photographer for 35 years, shares his secrets on getting the perfect shot of these four life-list animals. ANIMAL WHERE TIP Bighorn High, steep slopes. Frame bighorns with side or sheep Hotspot: Rocky Mountain backlighting to make them pop NP, CO against alpine terrain. Moose Marshy bogs and meadows. Shoot from a kayak: The low Hotspot: Isle Royale NP, angle makes moose look more MI dramatic, and you'll likely get closer than on land. Bald Ocean, lake, and river Use an easy-to-hold telephoto eagles shores. Hotspot: Chilkat lens, increase shutter speed to Bald Eagle Preserve, AK at least 1/500, and track the eagle as it dives for fish. Bears Berry patches, salmon Underexpose the shot to capture streams, and meadows. a dark bear without blowing out Hotspots: Yosemite NP, CA the background. Shoot twice (black): Glacier NP, MT (at -1/3 and at -2/3) to ensure (griz) you get the right exposure.