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FORUMS Photography Talk by Genre Wildlife Talk 
Thread started 14 Nov 2012 (Wednesday) 05:33
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The art of getting close

Senior Member
484 posts
Joined May 2012
Nov 14, 2012 05:33 |  #1

Hi Guys,

I dearly would love to own a 500mm or 600mm canon lens. Money wise, I could buy one, but unless it makes me money I don't feel it right to lash out. So the alternate I have to play with is a 70-200mmf/2.8 and sigma 120-400mm. I am very happy with both lens. Obviously have a greater FL will be handy but what do you guys who don't own a 500mm plus do to get close.

The topic of this thread is what technique and strategy do you employ to get close to your subject. I spend last weekend quietly as best I could to get close to wildlife, but this stupid human just kept scaring the subjects away. At the moment I am photographing water birds.

Aside from birds, what other methods are used?

I have read on hides and wearing camo gear. I don't want to rely on shooting at zoos or aviaries as I did this a few months ago and felt like I was shooting fish in a barrel. The animals weren't wild enough.

Tips, tricks and honest advice would be appreciated. I am sure there are others on here in the same boat, dreaming of a $10000 lens but dont have the cash to flash.

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4,697 posts
Likes: 273
Joined Nov 2008
Nov 14, 2012 12:49 |  #2

Blend into the enviroment and let them come to you. May require you show up early, stay late, lay in mud/water/snow, deal with bugs and so on.

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1DxII x 2 / 24-70L II / 70-200L II / 85 1.4L / 300 II / AD600Pros

Cream of the Crop
7,468 posts
Likes: 239
Joined Apr 2006
Location: LA
Nov 14, 2012 13:03 |  #3

Little bribe, if you know how, goes a long way. If not concentrate on where your creatures usually gather to eat.

Weak retaliates,
Strong Forgives,
Intelligent Ignores!
Picture editing OK

Senior Member
639 posts
Likes: 32
Joined May 2010
Nov 14, 2012 16:29 |  #4

"May require you show up early, stay late, lay in mud/water/snow, deal with bugs and so on."

Like this guy:

http://www.joelsartore​.com/story-behind/madidi-diary/ (external link)

Flickr (external link)

Senior Member
484 posts
Joined May 2012
Nov 14, 2012 16:35 |  #5

Hopefully not to the extreme of what he went through.

That writeup sounds more like a photographers horror story. Then again, I suppose from the comfort of our computers we don't really see what goes on behind the scenes to get some shots.

Thanks for the link.

1,327 posts
Likes: 4
Joined Jun 2009
Location: Oregon
Nov 14, 2012 20:04 |  #6

A lot of people will say you need camo and hides. And to some extent they are right for certain situations. However, the majority of the time I have found just getting low is enough to stalk up on most birds and mammals. Not crouching low, but belly crawling low. Even if you are in a full gillie suit, most birds and other animals will freak out if they see you walking or crawling on your knees straight towards them.

I don't like hides because they limit movement. The rare times when I do use a hide, I always give myself some way of exiting without disturbing the subject so that I can stalk closer if the subject decides to wander off. Also, I plan weeks in advance so that I know 100% that the animal will be exactly where my hide is (if they are mammals then I set up camera traps, however they don't work with birds very well). If you go out and place a hide without researching the animals daily movements, chances are you are going to come back frustrated about not getting the shots you want.

Hope this helps,

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Senior Member
467 posts
Joined Mar 2012
Nov 15, 2012 00:14 |  #7

I like blinds if I plan on being there for awhile. You can move around in them without being seen. They block the wind, sun and rain. You can get out if need be. I guess I'm lazy but sitting in a chair with the tripod loaded and ready is well worth a few trips to get your location just right.

Larry ­ Weinman
1,436 posts
Likes: 65
Joined Jul 2006
Nov 21, 2012 07:45 |  #8

Animals are afraid of the human shape so camo won't help you much if at all. Get low in order to break up that shape as much as possible. Move very slowly. Quick movement will frighten anything and don't jerk the camera up when you see something worth shooting. Blinds work well especially if you can leave them in a spot permanently so they actually become part of the environment. If you don't have a blind even throwing a dropcloth over you will help.

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POTN Landscape & Cityscape Photographer 2005
10,884 posts
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Joined Apr 2003
Location: southern Alberta, Canada
Nov 21, 2012 17:10 as a reply to  @ Larry Weinman's post |  #9

When I first started to shoot wildlife I wanted to go out find something and shoot it but found that I too was simply scaring them away. I have invested in camouflage materials and clothing and make myself a blind and sit. Sometimes this can be rewarding but other times you come home empty handed. Its alot like hunting or fishing, sometimes you are lucky and sometimes you are not. Even though I have a 500 and 600 lenses along with a couple of converters I still like to be as close as possible.

I have set up a blind along a game trails many times only to come away without any images of the intended game. Its the way it works. Birding I find alot easier in that they will frequent the same area as long as you are quiet. I purchased some camouflage in several different shades depending on the local colors. They came in a large sheet of about 6 feet wide and were about 12 feet long so I can cover myself pretty well. They were not all that much being about 20.00 each.

With birding I find that the blind is not always necessary as some species are not as spooked as others but staying still is. It certainly can be frustrating but generally it is a waiting game.

My life is like one big RAW file....way too much post processing needed.
Sheldon Simpson | My Gallery (external link) | My Gear updated: 20JUL12

Mostly Lurking
16 posts
Joined Jun 2011
Dec 02, 2012 04:22 |  #10

Wind direction can be key when wildlife us concerned. Most animals have a much better sence if smell than we do and will smell you and disappear long before you get to see them if you are upwind of them. When stalking, keeping the wind in your face can be a huge advantage. Another thing that many people won't appreciate is that most washing detergents make clothes show up in uv, which a lot of birds can see. Obviously this can render the best camouflage useless.

I've done a lot of hunting over the years and sometimes just going out with a pair of binoculars to study your quarry to get an idea of their habits is the best bet. Sometimes a gun or camera on you can distract from this.

Senior Member
315 posts
Likes: 22
Joined May 2011
Location: Utah
Dec 06, 2012 09:28 |  #11

gtren wrote in post #15315091 (external link)
Wind direction can be key when wildlife us concerned.

Exactly what I was going to say. I concentrate mostly on predators and deer. Both have exceptional senses of smell and rely heavily on their noses for day to day survival. For the most part, I can fool their eyes, fool their ears, but I can't fool their noses. If they get a whiff of human, they are usually gone. So it's very important to pay attention to wind direction :cool:. When going after coyotes, especially, aside from simply knowing there are coyotes around to begin with, avoiding upwind is the single biggest ingredient to success.


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The art of getting close
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