Three Traits You Need To Be A Wildlife Photographer
THREE TRAITS YOU NEED TO BE A WILDLIFE PHOTOGRAPHER
Trait #1: Patience
folks have approached me with the mistaken idea that a wildlife photographer is
simply one who
walks around taking pictures of birds and other animals on trails in a wildlife refuge or park. Sure, sometimes we actually do that! I've gotten some great snake shots that way. But for the most part the
real story is, most of the time we are sitting in one spot… waiting… waiting… waiting. Many times getting nothing, nada, zilch – for days! It is only with patient waiting comes the great shots you see in the magazines. Of course there always exceptions; but they are few and far between. If you lack patience, then you probably won’t like true wildlife photography. Either that or you’ll need to start exercising and stretching what patience you do have.
Fortitude ties in with patience. It’s the ability to calmly and patiently endure pain, disappointment and very uncomfortable conditions; to have what it takes to tolerate hot, cold and bad weather. And yes, sometimes, even face danger head-on without losing it! You have to know yourself – your tolerance levels and your fear levels. Living in Florida, I love photographing alligators, but since everyone with a phone now days can get a picture of a gator in the water from 100 feet away, I tend to take a few dangerous chances to get the more uncommon shots. Add that to the fact that, down here, it is mostly hot and humid with almost every biting bug imaginable! To be a wildlife photographer, you have to be one of those folks that don’t mind the bugs, the weather, the pain, uncomfortableness and danger. Fortitude.
Trait #3: Skill
A common overlooked fact of being a wildlife photographer is that you first have to be a good photographer. Wildlife photography isn’t simply stepping onto your front porch to get a shot of the deer
calmly standing in your front yard with your cell phone.
Cool? Yes. Wildlife photography? No.
It takes the skill that comes from practice – years of practice of taking good pictures. Knowing the basics of composition, knowing your camera like it’s a bodily appendage and knowing how to time shots. Perhaps that deer in your yard whets your appetite for wildlife photography. It could be the catalyst that launches you into a great hobby or job! If that’s the case, get out there and practice! Photograph your dog running, birds flying; if it moves, shoot it!
Just Lucky I Guess
Since animals and birds don’t run on our human time schedule, luck plays a good 80% part in what we do. For example, I have yet to get a shot of a Florida black bear. I’ve set up day after day (tenacity, probably Trait #4) where I know bears live or where they’ve been sighted and still nothing. I know how to hunt, track and hide, yet my portfolio bears no bears!
I only mention this because, although skill will take you far, it will only take you so far. Great lucky shots make for an even greater story to tell. Savor that moment! Just don’t rely on it. A true wildlife photographer will combine their honed skill with the luck we all hope for to create that “million dollar” shot.
Is Wildlife Photography For You?
So, do you have these three traits? If you do and feel the call of the wild, take that first step and go out and get you a nice camera (do some research first. I use two Nikon D500s and lenses good for wildlife photography), then hit the trails, the woods, the lakes or the oceans. The sooner you start practicing, the sooner you will be able to call yourself a true wildlife photographer.
If you ever find yourself down here in Central Florida feel free to contact me! I offer wildlife photography classes, guide services and awesome Adventure Photography trips. Reach me from my website TJWallerPhotography.com.