How do I find wildlife? What do I bring? How should I use the lighting? .... These questions are asked over and over again, yet most articles and tutorials do not get to the other aspects of the art of photography. There is much more to know.
Yes, the animals are also there for our photographic pleasure (!!!), but we should be mindful of our presence on them.
We have our bag, our equipment, even an extra water bottle or two. Maybe some snacks, and a chair or tent for our comfort while we wait. But, what are we doing with our trash? Where did we tread? What have we disturbed? Are those signs really that important? What will happen to the habitat after I'm done here? How can I help ensure this area stays this beautiful? Is there anything else I should know?
This, among many others, are all questions we should be asking ourself before venturing out. The first 3 major questions we should ask ourselves are: (1) How can I make sure I am safe? (2) How can I make sure the animals stay safe? (3) How can I limit my impact on their habitat?
• If you are driving, riding a bike, or even walking, please watch where you tread. Also watch where you set your equipment.
• Is there a nest or burrow nearby that you may be disturbing? You don't want to step on and injure or kill eggs or babies. Disturbed nests are often not returned to by the parents.
• Animals don't drive cars. They can run out in front of you before you know it, injurying them, or even you.
• Many smaller animals, and some larger prey, will hide silently and blend-in with their surroundings. You may not see them until you are right on top of them.
• Snakes also blend in well. No one wants to find out they have discovered a snack the hard way! I almost suffered a bite from a timbler rattlesnack while on a hike once. I was having fun and ran around a trail turn too quickly, landing almost right on top of a full-grown adult. I was fortunate that day.
• Try to refrain from altering the natural surroundings as much as possible. This includes where you tread, sit, eat, climb, etc. One stomped flower or one big pushed over rock may not seem like much, but if several people pick the flowers, crush the plants, re-arrange rocks channeling water, or even knock down smaller trees, this is altering the ecosystem in which nature lives. You could change the area forever.
• ANIMALS CAN HURT YOU!
Animals can, and will, defend them selves if they feel threatened. Larger animals, such as cougars or even deer (yes, DEER) can do serious damage to a human if threatened. Do not chase after, corner, make loud noises at, or make sudden movements around the animals. Even smaller animals such as foxes are not afraid to defend themselves. Some birds will also do the same.
• Please, pack your trash out with you. When trash is left, it clutters the area, animals may try to eat it and get sick or die, and hurts the environment. We want to keep seeing these creatures for a long time.
• Take a fully charged cell phone with you. Whether alone or with someone, make sure you have a way to contact others. You may get lost, fall, get hurt, or even lost.
• Yes, those signs are there for a good reason.
• If there is a sign telling you not to enter, please don't enter. They put these here for your safety. If it says don't trespass, don't break the law for a picture. You also don't know what's on the other side. Could be hunters, guard dogs, huge holes, hungry alligators, etc. You just don't know. Don't risk it. There are other places to take pictures.
• Do Not Feed The Wildlife.
Ok, so how many of you do this? It's okay to admit. It's tempting to do. But please don't. There are three main reasons for not feeding the wildlife, whether they be in the wilds of nature, sanctuaries, or parks:
• Feeding them brings them that much closer to you. Some animals, such as Zebras for example, can become very aggressive, though they don't look it. Many animals will compete for the food and not worry about if they get you involved.
• They will lose their fear / respect for humans. Animals will begin wandering into campsites, breaking into cars (bears are known for this), and even homes to look for the handouts. They will wander more into towns and residential areas, increasing the risk of animal-related car accidents, rummage through garbage cans, and some may partake in the "prey" they find on farms and in yards.
• They will become dependent on humans for food. As above, they will ransack garbage, break-in, and even go after livestock and pets. There have been reports now and then of a young child being attacked by a wild animal in backyards.
• When wild animals associate humans with food, there is a risk for changing their lifestyles from what nature intended.
• Do not take an animal home with you.
They are not pets. They are living creatures that require what nature provides. They have instincts they drive them to survive in the wild, not in a cage in your home. They could turn on you, die, or become depressed. Please, just observe and not touch.