Wildlife Week: Patience & Persistence

May 28th, 2010 by Juan Pons

Fighting Big Horn Sheep, Yellowstone NP, WY

If you want to be successful at wildlife photography you need two things; patience and more patience. Well, persistance helps as well.

In all seriousness, besides the few lucky shots we all get from time to time, you need loads and loads of patience and need to be very persistent in order to consistently make memorable images. Wildlife can’t be directed, rushed or posed, otherwise it would not be wildlife.

Here are three tips to help you:

  • 30 Minute Rule – When observing and photographing wildlife there is what is commonly referred to as the 30 minute rule. What this means is that once you enter an environment you have caused a disturbance with the wildlife within the immediate area. Wildlife will take approximately 30 minutes to “settle” down and accept your presence, given that you are still during this period and have broken your “human” outline. You break your outline by covering yourself with some simple camouflage netting or other similar material. You’ll be surprised how close some wildlife will get to you once you have done this.
  • Work Subjects Over and Over – This simply means never being “content” with the images you have of a specific subject or species; never thinking you have made the best image you’ll ever make. Keep working the same subjects over and over, make more images with different backgrounds, under different weather and light conditions, and during different times of the year. Just as an example, during my last “Winter in Yellowstone” photo workshop (Feb 2010) we had the opportunity to make quite a few images of big horn sheep, some under very spectacular conditions. Most workshop participants had dozens if not hundreds of images of the sheep. On a different day, we ran into the sheep again and I asked the participants if they wanted to make some more images of the sheep, and all indicated that they thought they already had all the images they wanted/needed. I immediately stopped the vehicle and made everyone get out to make some more images, explaining that although I believed this was the same group of sheep, the conditions where not the same as the previous day and you never know what will happen. Not more than 15 minutes after we set up to make some more images the sheep started fighting! We spent the next hour or two making some incredible images like the one above! Had we continued on thinking we had all the images we ever wanted we would have missed this spectacular display!
  • Look for Patterns in Behavior – I have to admit that I am not the most patient person on the world, specially when I am sitting inside a blind in sweltering heat. In order to limit the amount of time I spend in situations like this, I look for patterns in behavior of my subjects and schedule my time in the blind accordingly. This way I maximize the chances of making great images while in the blind.

Keep up with Juan on The Digital Photo Experience and learn about Juan's workshops at Wild Nature Tours.

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One Response to “Wildlife Week: Patience & Persistence”

  1. Elizabeth says:

    Agreed. The best photos I have ever gotten have come from days when I’ve spent an entire day in one great spot diligently watching and waiting.

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