Viewing incredible images of wildlife captured in exotic locations can be an engrossing experience for many of us. Imagining oneself being able to travel to some of these far-off destinations and taking part in a wildlife photo safari is the dream of many photographers. For many folks exotic nature photography isn’t an option, but that doesn’t mean that we can’t enjoy nature in our local areas. This short article shares a selection of images captured during the past week or so at a nature reserve within a half hour drive of my home in Southern Ontario.
Swallows are often a challenge to photograph as they can be quite skittish and seldom stay in one place for more than a few seconds. Trying to capture one in flight is a challenge on an entirely different level.
Great Blue Herons are truly majestic birds, whether on the ground hunting or in flight. They are excellent photographic subjects, especially for beginners, as they can hold a pose continuously for minutes on end, allowing photographers to experiment with composition.
Some species like the trumpeter swans can become accustomed to being around humans, allowing us to get in close and personal when capturing images of them.
Nature photography is often a matter of being in the right place at the right time and reacting quickly to a particular situation. Being able to capture a specific moment is what makes this type of photography a rewarding experience.
Small birds like nuthatches can make interesting photographic subjects. Being ‘quick on the draw’ in terms of framing an image and acquiring focus is helpful when photographing these quick, little birds.
When at the Hendrie Valley Reserve I’m typically focused on capturing action images of birds flying and fishing. It is always beneficial to remain open to other photographic opportunities as they present themselves, like the water snake in the image above.
Watching for small movements often reveals opportunities. Where the chipmunk in the above image found this piece of orange is a mystery, but it was certainly enjoying its feast!
Woodpeckers and many other species will often be tempted to eat bird seed left for them by hikers. Depending on how accustomed that they are to humans some birds will sometimes eat from the palm of your hand.
Chance encounters, like with the mink in the above image, are special moments indeed. I noticed the mink swimming across a small pond and climb into some heavy brush to hunt. Patiently watching for movements in the brush can sometimes reveal opportunities for photographs.
Sometimes other photographers will be in the same area as we are and many will share information of some of the animals they have spotted. Such was the case with this water snake eating a fish along the edge of a pond.
One morning I spotted this snapping turtle on a log basking in the sun. I found out a few days later than it was ill and had been removed from the pond by some government wildlife personnel.
I’ve been photographing birds in flight for a number of years and it is always a thrill to capture even a common species in flight, especially if the photograph shows a unique wing position or an open beak.
The late spring can be a wonderful time to capture images of young animals and birds. This gosling was with four of its siblings along the edge of a pond. Luckily my 1 Nikon 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 zoom lens provided me with good reach as goslings’ parents were very protective and aggressive.
I was a bit focused on water snakes during the past week so I took quite a few photographs of them. This small snake had been biting and pulling on a larger, dead fish floating in the water. It was able to tear off some small pieces of flesh which it then swallowed. I had never witnessed this behaviour before and I was quite fascinated watching the snake. After feeding for a while the snake came back on shore and was flexing its jaws. I captured this image by shooting at 20 frames a second in continuous auto-focus with my Nikon 1 V3.
While standing on a dock photographing terns fishing I heard some rustling in the underbrush behind me. I turned around to listen more intently and noticed some movement in the reeds. It took a few minutes but eventually a muskrat became visible and I had a couple of seconds to capture a burst of AF-C images of it eating.
Some people shy away from nature photography because they don’t think their gear will be up to the task. They’ve read articles about the many thousands of dollars that some people spend on camera bodies, and especially lenses, and then end up feeling their camera gear is substandard. The truth is that even a modest amount of gear when used well can capture some interesting nature images. The key is to go out frequently to the same local spots to learn about what animals are in the area, as well as their behaviour patterns. Talking to, and learning from, other photographers who frequent these same locations can be rewarding.
There are many benefits of nature photography. It gives us the chance to get outdoors, to do some hiking, and to experience the world around us in a more personal and intense manner. Since opportunities for nature images can be fast and fleeting, it also forces us to learn to use our gear very quickly, sometimes instinctively.
All photographs were captured handheld with Nikon 1 gear as per the EXIF data. Images were created from RAW files using my standard process of PhotoLab, CS6 and the Nik Collection.
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