How to Find Animals for Wildlife Photography Beginners
Wildlife photography may seem like an attractive field of photography to you, but one of the most daunting things for beginners is how to actually go about finding the animals in the first place. Thanks to mankind’s destructive nature we’re used to seeing fleeting glimpses of animals, often far away, prompting heated debates between groups as to what is that winged black speck in the distance.
1. Wildlife Parks and Reserves
One of the first places I visited when I first embarked on my journey as a wildlife photographer was a small wetland reserve. This reserve had some birds kept in open enclosures, as well as a river which was host to many wild ducks. Ducks tend to move slowly, at least when swimming casually along and are fairly easy to get close to (especially in a reserve frequented by well-intended people).
The best attraction for me, though, was the woodland hide. Situated in a quiet clump of trees, this woodland hide looked over a feeding station for wild birds. It was visited by mainly small passerines, such as great tits and bullfinches, but occasionally the odd predator would drop in such as a sparrow hawk.
2. Get a Wildlife Blind
Not happy with a public hide? Get your own wildlife blind – a camouflage tent, if you will – and set it up wherever you think wildlife may frequent. This might even be in your backyard, and if you set up a small feeding station there you could have all sorts of birds and small mammals visiting. Bird feeders filled with sunflower seeds will quickly attract small passerine birds, with squirrels most likely making a visit there too.
3. Try Using a Trail Camera
If you’re really stuck for ideas or want to track down something a little more interesting, try setting up a small Bushnell trail camera in likely locations for animals. Such locations might be runs in a woodland (trodden down trails in the grass you can see, where animals move regularly). The camera will sit and watch 24/7 for you, triggering when something moves by. They’ll record video or take photos that you can later review, unveiling the secrets of a particular area to you.
4. Practice Your Fieldcraft Techniques
If you want to be a successful wildlife photographer, then you need good fieldcraft skills. You need to learn how to remain concealed, and silently approach animals without them noticing you. This involves learning to properly observe your subject. Only move when they are distracted. You should never approach an animal that is clearly alert and wary that something is nearby. Wait until they’re relaxed and unaware, before continuing to move closer.
5. Keep Alert
Many of my wildlife photos are opportunistic. It doesn’t hurt to drive around with your camera in the passenger’s seat, keeping your eyes peeled for wildlife. In an ideal world, you’d have someone driving for you so you can pay 100% attention to the surrounding areas, rather than having to focus on the road.