May 22, 2021
Wildlife photography is a lot like ecology. As a wildlife photographer you need to study the interactions between living things and their environment. As a National Geographic photographer I have recognized over the years how intricately every aspect of nature is woven into its local environment. Wildlife photography teaches us that our relationship with wildlife is not merely a physical one, but also a spiritual one. It also teaches us that the world around us is constantly changing to the rhythm of our earths solar drum. Wildlife photography is about understanding the beat of the solar drum and knowing where and when to look for wildlife.
Locality and Patience
The key to wildlife photography is understanding the relationship between the locality of your subject and the environment it interacts with. Every locality has its own rhythm and can vary from day to day and season to season. Understanding the heartbeat of your locality is the key to wildlife photography. Wildlife photography also requires quite a bit of patience.
If you spend enough time studying wildlife and the local habitat they live in you will learn the behaviors of the animals you are photographing as well as the personalities of your subject. The longer you spend with your subjects the better your chances are of finding that unique shot that reflects their personality and spirit.
Being a wildlife photographer is a lot like being an ecologist. You need to understand the complex relations among different species and their environment. Understanding these relationships, like an ecologist would, helps you as a wildlife photographer. Whether you are an underwater photographer, macro photographer, bird photographer or wildlife photographer you need to understand the local ecology and the patterns that exist within that particular environment.
Knowing that the diversity of life is organized into different habitats, from terrestrial to aquatic ecosystems, is important in understanding how to become a proficient wildlife photographer. Once you develop a sense for the habitat that you are photographing you will be able to capture the behaviors and personality of your subjects.
As a wildlife photographer it helps to have a spiritual understanding about nature. Learning how to understand and speak nature's language is an important skill in wildlife photography. In order to understand nature you will need to learn its spiritual and symbolic meanings much like Native Americans did. Modern society has lost this instinctive tie to the rhythms and patterns of nature. Awakening yourself to natural world in order to understand the supernatural world will fill you with new inspiration and creativity with your wildlife photography.
The more you understand the symbols of nature the more your wildlife photography will reflect this understanding. Everything in nature has two sides to it, a physical and spiritual side. Understanding that every animal has a powerful spirit and its own physical talents is key to developing a relationship with your subject. Wildlife won't just warm up to you immediately, it takes time, patience, and practice to gain the trust and limitations of each animal.
Every species of wildlife has its own personality and as a wildlife photographer you need to respect the physical and environmental boundaries of these animals if you are going to capture their true personality. You are stepping into their environment and it is paramount that you respect their limitations and their habitat in order to gain their trust. Tread lightly into each habitat because no two habitats are identical and each one has its own rhythm and heartbeat.
The Rhythm of the Solar Drum
As seasons change in nature so do the sights, sounds and smells of each locality. If you return to a locality at a later date, it will be very different place than when you first visited. The rhythm of the solar drum is constantly changing each habitat throughout the seasons.
For example, early spring in the Rocky Mountains is a good time to find wildlife down by the river beds. The river beds are usually the first place where green grass comes to life and offers wildlife a chance to re-nourish from the harshness of winter. Flowers usually bloom first at the lower elevations which also brings birds, bees, insects and wildlife. As spring arrives you can literally hear the soundscape of songbirds shift west as the earth turns. You can witness the migration of wildlife as the landscape morphs around you in its daily and annual patterns.
One of my favorite things to do is to go out west in the Rocky Mountains in late April to witness this amazing transformation of the Solar Drum. I will usually spend 12 to 14 hours a day for well over a month witnessing and photographing this phenomenon. I'm always amazed by the daily changes that shape each place. The synergy that nature provides as the solar drum beats is a sight to behold.
As a wildlife photographer it is important to understand that each and every location will be dramatically different as the solar drum continues to beat. Wildlife is far more in tune with the daily changes in their own habitat than humans will ever understand. It is important to spend enough time out in nature in order to witness first hand these daily and weekly changes happening.
Wildlife photography requires patience, time, and practice in order to become instinctively tied to the rhythms and patterns of nature. As you develop your own experience in nature you also become in tune with your "six sense" and your nature neurons are firing on all cylinders. You're able to detect the subtle changes happening all around you.
Wildlife photography is one of the hardest genres of photography to get into. It requires patience, time, and skill to become proficient. As a wildlife photographer you need to develop your "nature neurons" and understand the ebb and flow of life out in the wilderness. The more time you spend outdoors in nature the better your understanding will be of the solar drumbeat of our earth.
You need to understand that every species of wildlife has its own spiritual power as well as talent and personality. Spending time with your subject and gaining their trust and respect is important for wildlife photography. You need to respect and treat their environment with the utmost care and understanding. Wildlife photography is one of the most rewarding as well as challenging jobs a person can undertake. If you are interested in learning more about wildlife photography please visit my Wild Eyes In The Wilderness Photo Gallery to see some of my wildlife photography images.
"One touch of nature makes the heart hymn of profound harmony."~Robbie George