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Tips on shooting wildlife ... with cameras

  • Getting quality outdoor photographs just takes a little practice and patience.

    Getting quality outdoor photographs just takes a little practice and patience.
    Courtesy of Greg Nixon

 
 
updated: 1/20/2018 12:58 PM

Last week I went hunting. I shot several deer, a coyote, an entire flock of turkeys and two eagles. Before you start looking up the names and numbers of every conservation agent in the area, let me explain that none of these animals were harmed, much less killed.

They were shot however, in a very specific sense of the word. Instead of a trip to the taxidermist, I went to my computer to download my photos.

Photographing wildlife is a hobby that, for me, has turned into an important part of my career as an outdoor communicator.

I have had hundreds of outdoor photographs published locally, dozens on the regional level and quite a few in national periodicals. With all of this, I am admittedly not an expert. But I wanted to give you expert advice on this topic. That is why I tracked down Greg Nixon.

If you read my articles much, you have no doubt seen Greg Nixon's name under many of the photos. Greg has a keen eye for his subject matter. Being first a world class hunter with many record book entries to his credit, Greg utilizes the skills he has acquired as a hunter on his wildlife photography.

As a member of the Outdoor Writers Association of America, Greg Nixon speaks with authority on outdoor and wildlife photography.

"Photography has always played an important part in recording hunters, their quarry and their trophies," Nixon says. "Now more than ever, outdoors people are realizing that a camera not only helps them keep their memories, but actually enhances their hunting and their fishing."

Nixon prefers a high resolution digital camera. There are several great options out there so choose one with which you are comfortable. There are even more options for lenses.

"There are three lens types to choose from and use -- fixed, zoom and telephoto," he says. Different lenses are better for different tasks.

"If all you're planning to do is take trophy shots, then a standard 50 mm fixed lens is all you'll need," Nixon said. "For wildlife shots a zoom lens is good, but the really serious wildlife photographers also use telephoto lenses."

Greg often uses 300 mm or 500 mm lenses, but he adds that even with a 300 mm lens, you must still be within 20-40 feet of your subject to fill the frame.

When I asked him how to get a steady shot. he pointed out that there are many situations where a tripod isn't practical.

"For those occasions I'll use a bean bag or a stump or log to rest my camera on," he said. Greg also has a great device made by Kirk Enterprises, that clamps onto your vehicle window to steady your equipment.

"I've gotten several good shots using my vehicle for a blind," Nixon concluded.

I learned several new terms in my conversation with Mr. Nixon. One of the most important is "bracketing." Many photographers take 100 shots to get the perfect one.

Trophy shots -- photos that preserve the moment -- are very important to hunters and fishermen.

Nixon cautions that how hunters present themselves and their trophy animals on film is critical, to avoid offending the nonhunting public.

He suggests, especially with deer, to photograph the animal before field dressing it. Always clean off any blood and avoid the too often seen "sticking-out tongue." Also, give your shot a natural background. Back of pickup truck shots are a definite "no no." For other game, just be tasteful and use your best judgment.

From my experience taking hundreds of trophy shots, my tip is to use an enhancing flash. The bill of the hunter's cap can cast a nasty shadow across his or her face. Using a flash will save the quality of your photo. What good is a trophy photo of the buck of a lifetime if you cannot tell who the hunter is?

MIKE ROUX is a veteran outdoorsman. Read more at www.mikeroux.com.

 
 
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