Why I Love Wildlife Photography
When reflecting upon my photography I’ve always considered myself a landscape photographer. Justifiably so, since most of the time when I’m out photographing my primary goal is to photograph a landscape. I became a photographer and fell in love with photography because of my pursuit to capture photos of landscapes. First and foremost I am a landscape photographer, but I have another love and that’s wildlife photography. Being out in the field photographing animals brings me just as much joy as photographing any landscape does. I’ve realized the reason I photograph landscapes much more frequently is because for me it’s easier and I’m better at it. While I do landscape photography more often, I love wildlife photography just as much but in different ways and for different reasons. There are many aspects that go into why I love photographing animals so much.
One of the main reasons why I enjoy shooting wildlife so much is because of how different it is to shooting landscapes. Wildlife photography can be very fast paced, trying to capture the perfect moment from an animal whereas landscape photography is slow and calm. In wildlife photography you have to be ready to capture a moment that can be over in seconds or less. To capture the intended wildlife image you also need to consider having different camera settings as well. From shutter speed to aperture to focus mode, there is a lot to consider. Whereas with landscape photography for the most part, camera settings don’t change that much from shot to shot.
Another aspect that makes these two styles of photography so different is that they can be shot at different times under different conditions. The majority of my landscape photography shoots are captured at sunrise or sunset, but wildlife photos can be captured at almost any time of the day. So while it still might be true that the best light for wildlife images happens around those times of day, it’s nice to be able to capture images during different times of the day. This is especially true when the light is flat and the sky is overcast. It might not be great lighting conditions for landscape photography, it can still be really nice for wildlife photography. The image of the bighorn sheep below displays an example where I knew the sky was forecast to be overcast, so I decided to not bother attempting to shoot a landscape and instead went out searching for wildlife.
Another thing to consider is that it’s not always feasible to be in a location that can lead to a good landscape image. For me, there isn’t always time to drive out to the mountains to capture some landscape photos. Instead, I might go somewhere closer where I can find wildlife to photograph since you can find wildlife almost anywhere. The shot of the baby foxes below are an example of a situation where I created a wildlife image in a much more rural landscape.
One of the biggest aspects that goes into making a successful wildlife photographer, and on the biggest things I’ve struggled with the most in my wildlife photography is patience. The value of patience in wildlife photography is felt almost every time I go out and look for wildlife. Sometimes to get the shot you’ve been looking for, you might have to wait for hours in one place or you might have to return to the same location for several days in a row. For this reason, I find wildlife photography to be much more challenging than landscape photography, but with that challenge comes a higher reward. When all of the patience and hard work pays off, it can be much more rewarding and satisfying. The shot below is an example of a time when my patience as a photographer paid off. I saw this moose in this same spot a couple days in a row but couldn’t capture a satisfying image of it. I kept returning to this location and on the final day after waiting for a couple hours, I eventually got some images of this moose that I’m happy with. When I think about my photography, I don’t see myself as a great wildlife photographer, which makes the challenge of getting better very intriguing to me. It’s always nice to try something new in photography and be rewarded with great images.
One of the aspects of wildlife photography that makes it so enjoyable for me is the surprising nature of it. A lot of the opportunities I’ve had to photograph animals has come from times when I'm out photographing landscapes and I'm surprised by spotting a beautiful animal. Even when I'm out looking for a specific animal, when I finally do see that animal for the first time it can be such a pleasant surprise. There are also many occasions where I go out looking for one animal and am completely surprised to spot a different unexpected animal. The photo of the moose below is an example of a time when I was out hiking in the dark to shoot a sunrise, but was shocked to see a moose standing in the water off in the distance. It was such a nice surprise, especially since the sunrise was a complete dud anyway. The unexpected element of wildlife photography and being surprised by animals, is certainly one of my favorite aspects of photography.
After reflecting upon myself as to why I enjoy wildlife photography so much, the biggest reason that I could come up with was just my love of animals. Ever since I was a kid I've loved anything that has to do with animals, and what better way to do that than through photography. Photography has brought me to places to see and observe these animals in their natural habitat. Seeing these animals in the wild always brings me overwhelming joy that is so much better than seeing them in a zoo. In the wild, you get to observe their natural behavior and really appreciate how magnificent these animals are. Through photography, it has given me the motivation to visit these places with the goal of seeing and photographing animals. Without photography, I wouldn't go out nearly ad much as I do currently.
As much as I love going to these amazing locations shoot landscapes, I don't think anything brings me the rush of joy that comes with seeing a specific animal in the wild for the first time. Finding an animal that you've been searching for for a whole and getting a good photograph of it for the first time is an unbelievable experience that I hope everyone gets to experience in their lives.