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When being chased by a bear, you don’t need to outrun it. Just the guy behind you. Well, the joke might have made you chuckle, but you won’t really be caught dead in a similar situation. Photographing wild animals seems wildly exciting, but there are things you need to remember before attempting to capture wildlife at its natural best. Here they go…

Stay safe

The most important thing to remember while shooting wildlife, especially the big and potentially dangerous animals in their natural environs, is to stay safe. Concentrate on safety, not only your own but also that of your subject.

  • Never place yourself in between a mother and its babies. Elephants are the most dangerous here. The mother might instinctively consider you a danger to her babies and attack.
  • Keep a respectable distance. If the animals sense your presence and alter their behavior, move back as you are too close for their comfort. The natural reserves usually mention certain rules, including the safe distance to be maintained for safety. Abide.
  • Don’t carry food. Wild animals have a keen sense of smell and if a hungry one detects that, it would put you in serious danger.
  • Don’t litter. Even if it is the stubs of half-eaten fruits. It will carry human smell. The animals might start associating human smell with food. That would prove dangerous to your subjects. Dispose off your waste sensibly.

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Research beforehand

Before heading out to shoot, do some research about what to expect. Look up information about the reserve, the paths and trails; the wildlife and the kind of animals you will encounter, their eating habits, their movements during different times of the day and the time of the year when babies are born. The best way to procure this information is to talk to the rangers or local people. All this information will help you be at the right place at the right time.

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Take along a driver

Take along a companion who can double as your driver. While you are on the lookout for the wild animals, there are several others in the same pursuit, including visitors and professional photographers. Usually, when an animal is sighted, people jam up. Despite the park preserve’s warnings against stopping and crowding the road, people stop in the middle of the road in their excitement of spotting a wild animal. Left with no option, you are free to leave your spot behind the wheel and venture out to capture some precious shots before the subject disappears. However, leaving the vehicle can be a dangerous proposition, depending on the animal you are trying to shoot. Be watchful and only proceed after your guide has approved it.

Be attentive

So you have done your homework and have a willing companion. Now comes the most crucial part: locating your subject. Wild animals instinctively avoid humans. Most probably, they will be more active during the cooler early morning hours and late afternoons to avoid the hot sun. Carefully observe the cool shady spots, the waterholes or even the tree canopies. Sometimes, they climb on trees to rest and you might just pass them by. Keep your eyes open.

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And finally…

The thing of utmost importance, while shooting wildlife in its natural habitat, is maintaining respect for it. Maintain your distance. Don’t litter. You are encroaching upon their terrain. Stay cool. Be safe and consequently keep them safe. You don’t really wish to attempt outrunning that guy behind you, let alone that huge bear.

~ Aatika, Write Wing Media