Now that the leaves have all but fallen, it’s a good time to take a walk in the woods with a camera around area lakes. Casually walking through the woods with a camera in hand rarely results in more than blurred images and an occasional “luck” shot. There's a lot more to this kind of photography than most hobbyists realize.
All good wildlife photographers know the importance of the three P's: preparedness, patience and practice.
Anyone with outdoor experience already appreciates the importance of being prepared. In this case, it means the camera equipment is right for the job and in proper working order.
A lot has changed in photography over the past few years. I remember back when I followed President Truman, I was carrying a big 4x5 camera with a dark slide and flashbulbs. Today, I usually have a small 35-millimeter camera with which I could shoot 50 or more shots in a few minutes and know right away what the results were. It’s a whole different world out there, but some things haven't changed.
Knowing the area and the wildlife is still important. If whitetail deer are going to be photographed, knowing their habits will save time and a lot of frustration. Books provide general information and local hunters can tell you about local patterns most wildlife tend to follow, including where they are most plentiful. The best way to learn about wildlife is in time spent in the woods. It won't take long to learn deer, as an example, maintain the same habits day after day when the hunting season has ended.
It’s often said photography is the art of painting with light. This is especially true in wildlife photography. Once you know where you are likely to find an animal, it is important to visit the location at various times of the day to study light. A good photo blind or stand will put you close to the animals, and also takes advantage of utilizing the best light.
Dressing properly is equally important to most types of wildlife photography. Clothing needs to be comfortable, convenient, camouflaged and quiet.
Being upwind from a 12-point buck is no time to be shooting off a mosquito off your face. It is a good idea to include some insect repellent in your outdoor gear.
Getting a great shot for even the best of wildlife photographers is not an easy task. Most wildlife covers on outdoor magazines didn't come from shooting out of a window of a vehicle. These dedicated professionals often sit in a blind for hours, or sometimes days before they get a shot. They know most wild animals have senses telling them when humans are around.
It might be difficult to get wildlife shots, but when you do, it can be very rewarding. Dave Oliver, a Springfield amateur photographer, spent hours near Stockton Lake waiting to get a shot of a big buck he had seen. Finally, one cold morning he was able to get a great shot of the buck with steam coming out of its mouth. Today, he can relive that moment by looking at the 20x24-inch photo hanging over his fireplace.
"It was well worth the wait," Oliver said.
White, a Stockton resident, has a versatile background in the outdoors as a participant and journalist. His column appears weekly.