It never occurred to me that my camera lens looked like a big predator eye until I met my falconer friend. While photographing his birds, he explained to me that when I point my camera at them, they feel the need to flee because the lens makes me look like a giant predator.
To calm his bird’s fear, he suggested I photograph them while they were eating in order to have them associate my camera lens with a reward. Much in the same way you would train a dog. The experience enlightened me and I began to change my thinking. I became more aware of where I aimed my lens, as well as my eye contact with animals when I photograph them.
I’ve never used a blind until this year so I’ve always been out in the open. Birds which I photographed near bird feeders always accepted my presence after a short period of time. I began to notice that animals who share their environment with people also become accustomed to their presence. When I started photography I found it easy to photograph animals at local parks, zoos, or college campuses where there was a great deal of human activity on a daily basis.
After returning to the woods, I found the same thing to be true. If I spent enough time in one spot, the animals came to accept me as part of their environment. Even though I was not camouflaged, they overcame their fear of approaching me. Many animals are curious by nature, and often times I was surprised by how close they would come to me.
I never stalk animals. Whenever I try to follow them, they flee. Normally I choose a spot to sit and wait for them to come to me. Of course it’s helpful to sit quietly and blend in. The color of my clothing makes a difference, I don’t wear bright colors when I’m out in the woods. On the other hand, when I want to photograph hummingbirds, I wear red, or a colorful t-shirt which attracts them to me.
Some animals such as deer will respond to my voice. I know they will run when they see me move. However, if I talk softly to them or make a noise, they will look toward me trying to figure out where the noise is coming from. In a few split seconds I have the opportunity to capture the important element of eye contact.
Finally, be courteous with animals. I know this may sound silly but whenever an animal allows me to take their photograph, I thank them. Perhaps the fact that I’m relaxed when I talk to them makes me seem less threatening, I don’t know? I continue to do it because the practice always seems to provide good fortune for future interactions with wildlife.
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Walk softly, let nature be your guide…
Fine Art Photographer