I’m an avid hunter, but not in the way that most people would think.
I love going out to photograph deer and other animals. I love it because, just like physically hunting prey, it can be a tremendous challenge.
Every shot out in the wild needs to be calculated and intentional because one misstep with my camera’s settings can be the difference between missing a shot or having a blurry photo.
The obvious advantages to taking photographs of animals instead of physically hunting them is that I can do it year-round, and I can take as many photographs as I want.
I love it and I love showing others because not everyone gets to go out and see local wildlife.
My only limitation as of late has been my equipment — I don’t always have a long enough lens with me (they’re very expensive to own) and using a long lens is vital.
Animals are cautious, skittish and, most of the time, are extremely far away. Using a telephoto lens (generally 200mm or more) helps bridge the distance between my subject and myself. The clear advantage of using a telephoto lens is the distance factor, but using such a lens also creates a beautiful background blur when using an aperture that is wide open. The background blur created by wider apertures is often called “bokeh” (boh-keh) by camera geeks such as myself.
I mentioned this in a previous post: I love shooting with focal lengths that are vastly different than what our eyes normally see. The human eye sees at about 50mm — shooting photography at 16mm or 400mm is simply a treat. I love seeing vast landscapes through my camera’s viewfinder, and having the ability to zoom in close on a subject that is far away always will amaze me.
The photo accompanying this post was taken at 200mm and I even cropped the image further to make the subject larger.
When I go “hunting” I usually have my camera sitting on my lap as I drive (very slowly) down the back roads of Osceola County. My decision to do this stemmed from the amount of roadkill we locals see each year (U.S. 10, anyone?). Most deer don’t run away from the sound of a car, so they shouldn’t be spooked by little ‘ole me going all of 10 mph down a dirt road.
Using this method of mobility, I’ve seen hundreds of deer over the past few years and gotten many good shots.
One tricky thing when shooting wildlife, especially animals like deer who mostly come out in the evening hours, is light.
Owning a telephoto lens is one thing, owning a telephoto lens with a wide aperture (f/2.8 or less) costs SO much money; — we’re talking upwards of $6,000 for a Canon 300mm f/2.8 lens.
Unfortunately, if you want to get good shots of the critters in low light you’ll need an aperture like this or else you’re going to be shooting earlier in the day and seeing less of your subjects.
Using a long lens with a wide aperture is also fantastic for sports photography.
Lack of light is probably the biggest enemy to shooting wildlife, but it’s also part of the fun because of how challenging it can make things. I love photography because it stretches my brain. When the day reaches its end and the light from the sun is waning, I need to be sharp and focused to not only see my subjects, but figure out which settings on my camera to use in order to shoot a photograph that is sharp and in focus.
Having less light outside means you’ll need a wide aperture, but it also means that you’ll be using higher ISOs and lower shutter speeds in order to properly expose your images. Your subjects won’t always be stationary, and they won’t always be close enough for a clear shot. It’s tricky.
I hope to continue shooting wildlife with better equipment in the future, but for now, shooting with the equipment I have available to me is part of the challenge. It’s a fantastic hobby and the rural setting I live in is a perfect setting for it.