While I enjoy capturing wildlife with my camera, I can attest that these subjects are the most difficult to shoot. Perhaps this is why the terminology between hunters and photographers is the same in this respect. There are a number of reasons why photographing wildlife is a challenge. First, the fickle nature of animals means they can be unpredictable. You’re never quite sure when they’ll appear, and when they do, it’s uncertain how long they’ll stick around (birds are often the most challenging in this respect). It’s almost like Pokémon: certain animals are more common in specific areas, but you’re still never guaranteed to run across one if you’re going out to photograph it.
Secondly, wild animals aren’t used to humans. Much of the time, we move quickly and with jerky motions, both of which can scare off wildlife. We tend to be loud as well (in how we walk and talk), which is probably why these wild animals don’t even give us a chance to see them, as they’ve already run away. In terms of smaller wildlife, our relatively large size means we can’t usually get very close to them, as they think we are predators. All these factors combined together mean that, if we do find a wild animal, we’d better be sure to have a telephoto lens to take its picture.
Finally, a lot of wildlife photography comes down to luck. You’ll be lucky to get a picture that’s composed well, with the animal looking in the right direction, and with the ideal lighting. There are many ways to increase your luck, like staking out a spot, camouflage, and having the right lens with you, but even these won’t guarantee you’ll get the picture you want. As for me, I take the chances with the opportunities I’m given, but the challenge still remains. I don’t have the patience to really invest in wildlife photography, but I’m willing to give it a shot if an animal comes across my path.
Even though you could consider taking pictures at a zoo “wildlife photography”, I think this would be more equivocal to “shooting fish in a barrel.” The same would go for baiting animals so they would remain long enough for a picture (I didn’t give the squirrel that sandwich, he found it on his own). Sure, your chances are better, but part of wildlife photography is the fleeting nature of its challenge.
What are your thoughts on wildlife photography? Is it easier for you, or does it pose the same challenge?
As always, have fun!
– Benjamin M. Weilert