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Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Southwestern Safaris

Extraordinary wildlife photo opportunities exist on the expansive ranches of Texas and northeastern Mexico

This Article Features Photo Zoom

Plentiful species of animals and wildlife claim the expansive regions of southern Texas and northern Mexico as home. To photograph wildlife in these settings, a good telephoto zoom is a necessity. RIGHT: A long-billed thrasher notices that it’s being watched as it perches on a mesquite branch in the Rio Grande Valley.
Photographic Technique
Wildlife photography requires intimate knowledge of your subject and equipment, persistence and good compositional technique. Limit movement and sound when in your blind. Your lens hood sticks out the front of the blind so move slowly to reposition your camera. Eye-level images of your subject bring intimacy to the scene. Many blinds are set into the ground, providing a comfortable way to photograph wildlife at eye level. Perches can be moved to adjust for different focal-length telephoto lenses. Take test shots and check your LCD for composition. Usually, the eye of your subject should be in focus.

A male varied bunting bathes to cool off from the Rio Grande heat.
The angle of the light striking your wildlife subject is important. Side lighting doesn’t work well with animals; it usually shades one side of the face, resulting in a poor image. Frontal lighting illuminates both sides of the face, creating a more pleasing image. How you compose your subject is critical. If the animal is looking to the side, make sure it has looking space or room on that side of the composition. Images cropped too tightly on that side make the animal looked cramped.

A northern cat-eyed snake coils itself through a patch of Texas lantana flowers in the Rio Grande Valley,Texas
Compose images to reflect a sense of place or show behavior. Watch your subject. If it repeats interesting behavior, frame the animal to include that activity. A zoom lens is a great help. To photograph insects and reptiles, use a telephoto macro lens or a regular zoom telephoto lens with extension tubes or two-element diopters. For many insects, working from about a foot away will still make them appear large in the frame.

The Wildlife Experience

Don’t let snakes or bugs deter you from a wonderful wildlife photography experience. At these ranches, you’ll find that the people are great and always helpful, the facilities are excellent and the wildlife is spectacular. Human population in Texas is growing rapidly, with tremendous pressure to convert large ranches to housing. These ranchers view wildlife photography as a nonconsumptive, revenue-generating use of resources. You capture superb wildlife images, and ranchers get income, helping them keep their ranches financially viable, a win-win situation. Go forth and bring back great images!


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