In The Neighborhood: Wildlife Photography Near You

Find accessible wildlife photo opportunities near your home

Spring officially arrived at my home in Parker, Colorado, the other day. I knew this because I heard my first house wren of the year. This tiny bird, with its wonderful, melodious and happy bubbling song, is a true harbinger of spring where I live. The bird, a male, sat in my garden and trilled a happy good morning for all to hear. I grabbed my camera and telephoto zoom and decided to start the new season out with some photography.

House wren singing in my garden, Parker, Colorado. Canon EOS 5D Mark IV, Tamron 150-600mm G2 F/5-6.3 Di VC USD lens at 600mm. Exposure: 1/250 sec., ƒ/8, ISO 800.

The wren was just the kick-start I needed to simply take a walk with my camera. I don’t usually need much motivation to go outside and take photos. I’m a passionate and motivated professional nature photographer, and I simply love outdoor shoots. But even so, office work, emails, marketing calls and image keywording often greet me each day.

Sometimes the prospect of going somewhere new gets us excited about photography. The anticipation and preparation for a trip to a far-off destination is part of the enjoyment and perhaps partly why many of us become photographers in the first place—but how about simply walking out your door and capturing familiar, community critters?

wildlife photography near home, sparrow in city park

Clay-colored sparrow, city park, Denver, Colorado. Notice the implied triangles that the thistle flowers make. The bird itself is also a triangle, and he sits at a “power point” within the frame, following the rule of thirds. Canon EOS 5D Mark IV, Tamron 150-600mm G2 F/5-6.3 Di VC USD lens at 600mm. Exposure: 1/1500 sec., ƒ/8, ISO 1600.

For Wildlife Photography Near You, Just Take A Walk

The day that the house wren arrived was a bright Tuesday morning, and as soon as I heard the singing, I needed to get outside. I wasn’t overly concerned about my timing with the light, I was just pumped to go for a walk. After photographing the wren right in my garden, I walked along the creek that runs through the open space near our home. That day, several other songbirds were singing happy spring tunes, a squirrel chattered from a pine tree and some prairie dogs barked a quick hello as I passed by. I had a wonderful morning pointing my camera at all of them even though I’d seen such animals many times before.

The most positive thing about your neighborhood wildlife is that it’s accessible at any time. As the seasons and days change, you can get outside and work with familiar animals. Frequent visits are a good thing. With careful observation, you’ll know where the wildlife can be seen, where birds might nest in the spring or roost in the evening. You might discover a local fox den or where the egrets go fishing every morning. This knowledge is half the key to good shots.

The lens that I’ve been using for all my wildlife photography lately is the Tamron 150-600mm G2 F/5-6.3 Di VC USD. Most often I’ve been using this lens on my full-frame Canon EOS 5D Mark IV but have also used it on “cropped sensor” (APS-C format) Canon EOS 70D and EOS 7D cameras. The Tamron lens offers a good range of convenient zoom power in a package of reasonable size and weight. The autofocus is quick and accurate, the VC (vibration compensation) feature allows for sharp images hand-held, and this lens has a price tag that doesn’t require a second mortgage. Similar zooms for DSLRs are available from Sigma, in addition to those from the camera makers, and there are tele-zoom options for mirrorless systems as well. Any telephoto zoom can yield good results for your neighborhood photography jaunts.

Most of us live within a short drive or even walking distance from a greenbelt, some open space, a shoreline trail or a city park. These are wonderful places to take a break and just go “see what you see.” A visit to a local park can re-energize your photographic spirit, and you can get out there tomorrow with ease.

The following eight tips are my suggestions to make your images better as you go locally and photograph neighborhood wildlife.

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