Photographing Animals

by Gray Cargill on June 4, 2010

Goat at Shelburne Farms

It’s probably a good thing I travel solo, because one of my favorite subjects to photograph is animals (and birds and sealife).  Not truly wildlife photos, like wolves or grizzlies or gorillas in the wild–I’m way too chicken for that–but whatever animals I happen across.  So in New Orleans, I took photos of the mules with their carriages in the French Quarter, little birds splashing in a fountain in Jackson Square, and swans gliding along a stream beneath Spanish moss in City Park.  At Disney World, I took numerous photos of the animals at Animal Kingdom and Animal Kingdom Lodge, as well as exotic birds we don’t see here in Vermont.  In San Juan, I followed feral cats on the beach for photos and got some nice shots of a variety of fowl on the Caribe Hilton property.  I’ve been known to stalk squirrels with my camera during my lunch hour at work.  I can’t seem to help myself.  I see an animal, and out comes the camera.

When I review my photos of past trips, I find that a) I have hundreds more photos from my solo trips than I do from trips I took with someone else; and b) I have photos of animals and birds from those trips, as opposed to just landscapes and people.  I think this is because it takes some time to score good animal photos.  You can’t just stop, click the camera and move on if you want a really good shot.  Most travel companions won’t have the patience to wait while you try to get just the perfect shot of that swan on the river.

Canadian Geese

Geese on the South Burlington bike path

For example, the other night I took a walk down the South Burlington bike path, which runs past a wetlands area where this summer there are two families of Canadian Geese (one with four goslings, and one with six).  I brought my DSLR with zoom lens, just in case I happened to spot them, and sure enough, they were out next to the bike path, pecking at the strip of grass next to the road, eating grass seed or bugs or something for their dinner.  I slowly approached and stopped when I was as close as I dared to get to them.

Canadian Geese

I say “dared” for two reasons:  One, they were dangerously close to the road, where cars were going by. I didn’t want to startle them into trying to run away from me and into the road, only to get hit by a car.  Two, geese will attack people if they feel threatened, and I really have no desire to be chased down the street by an angry goose. So I stopped a respectful distance from them and used my zoom lens to get photos.  Interestingly, because all I was doing was standing there, quietly taking photos, the geese didn’t seem all that concerned about me.  A jogger ran past them a little too closely, startling one of the adults, who hissed at her.  But they kept walking closer and closer to me, allowing me to finally get what I call “the money shots”.


A "money shot"

At one point, one of the adult geese raised his neck up high and stared right at me, as if to ask “You’re not going to try anything are you?”

I gave him the same look back.  “You’re not going to try anything are you?”

Both satisfied the other meant no harm, he continued eating, and I continued taking photos.

Had I had a companion with me, I doubt they would have had the patience to stay as long as I did, and quite possibly the geese might not have come closer, as they might have felt more threatened by two of us.  In any case, I appreciated the opportunity to focus on the birds, and not on a companion, while trying to get these shots.


Cute little gomers, aren't they?

No animal was harmed in the taking of these photos.  🙂

SoloFriendly June 9, 2010 at 10:05 pm

That's a good point, Claire. No matter what you're taking photos of, if you care about photography at all, you know you need to take TONS of photos in order to get one or two good shots of a subject. If your companion doesn't share your love of photography, they lose patience pretty fast.

Claire June 9, 2010 at 4:25 pm

I know the feeling… I take so many more photos on my own, and take a lot of animals to make sure I get one that works…

SoloFriendly June 6, 2010 at 4:57 pm

Who doesn't? They're so darned cute!

joanna_haugen June 4, 2010 at 3:22 pm

I don't take many animal photos myself, but I admit that I do heart baby animals!

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