What Not To Do When Shooting Wildlife

February 2, 2016

I get excited when spotting an animal in the wilderness.  Just ask my husband.  One afternoon we pulled into a picnic area in Yosemite National Park.  While still in the car, I saw something move near the outhouse.  “Bear!” I yelled, thrilled at the possibility of capturing one up close.  Snatching the camera from the car seat, I fumbled with the case while Chris scanned the area for the baby bruin.  “Oh, you mean that DOG over there?” he asked.  Yes, it was actually a dog.  I was disappointed, but we had a good laugh over that.  (Hint: Scroll over a photo to see the caption.)

So when the Photo Club assignment for January was to photograph wildlife, I was eager to get started.  I wanted to head back to Yosemite and see a real bear…if they weren’t all hibernating.

During January’s meeting, I picked up some pointers on how to shoot wildlife:

  • Make eye contact, keep eyes in focus
  • Don’t amputate the animal, get its whole body in the frame
  • Make sure the image is sharp
  • Use a telephoto lens as well as a tripod for close-ups; or a wide angle lens to show the animal’s habitat
  • Have patience

With those tips in mind, Chris indulged me.  We left sunny Mariposa and headed through the Central Valley to the Merced Wildlife Refuge.


Great Egret

The long, straight road and everything along the way—at least five dairies—was fogged in.  Agh!  I had just taken a hike in dreary weather and knew that it would be hard to capture wildlife in that environment with or without a telephoto lens.


Black-necked Stilts

We crept along the dirt road of the auto-tour route, a five-mile scenic drive, hoping that the sun would break through the early morning fog.  It never did.  We stopped occasionally to view the ducks on the pond.



Back at home, I scrolled through hundreds of my images looking for the best bird, bear, squirrel, snake, bobcat, lizard, anything-wild-that-I-photographed photo.

It became apparent when I pulled them all together, that photographically I didn’t know what the heck I was doing.

You’ve been viewing the best of my “What Not To Do When Shooting Wildlife” photos.  Most of the images are not sharp, none were taken using a telephoto lens, rarely was eye contact made, and sadly, body parts were amputated.

On the bright side, I am patient.

This summer I will try again to capture wildlife using my trusty little point-and-shoot while hiking through the back country of Yosemite.


A dead bat in my yard. 2011

2 thoughts on “What Not To Do When Shooting Wildlife

  1. Very nice. I had forgotten how many wildlife photos you’ve taken. I know there are a lot more, but it was fun seeing so many grouped together.


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