4 Tips For Taking Photographs Of Deer
by Richard Adams
There are a number of wild creatures that can be easy to photograph but unfortunately in most cases deer aren't one of them. They're cute as youngsters, they're elegant and graceful as adults. But whatever age they are, they typically avoid people like the plague to the point that you're most likely to see a deer either disappearing rapidly into the distance after it caught sight of you or dead by the side of the road.
The fact is that getting decent photographs of deer can be tough. However it is possible for even amateur photographers to get some decent pictures if you make full use of a number of useful strategies that I have discovered over the last few years as my passion for nature photography has really taken off.
The Right Equipment
Being large herbivores, deer are an ideal prey item for a whole range of predators and are therefore perfectly designed to try and avoid becoming a dinner. They have highly developed eye-sight and a sense of smell together with being tremendously fleet of foot. This means that a key tip when trying to photograph deer is to use the right equipment to try and remain undetected.
Dark or camouflaged clothing typically works far better than brightly-colored garments for helping you to blend into the countryside. Try also to ensure you avoid clothing that makes too much noise - such as jackets that rustle when you move. Footwear is another consideration where sneakers can be a better choice than walking boots because their softer sole means you can be lighter on your feet and twigs and leaves will make far less noise when stepped on.
For nature lovers of course taking photographs to be proud of is only part of the equation. Being out in the wonders of the countryside is just as important for many of us (myself included) so also consider how eco friendly your actions are. Try to avoid taking anything out with you that will harm the natural environment, stick to footpaths so you don't damage plant life, take all your rubbish home with you to recycle it and try to use recyclable batteries for your camera.
Time of Day
Deer may be active right throughout the day but the best times to see them are typically dawn and dusk - which means you're either going to need to get up very early indeed or stay out late.
Some of my best deer photographs have been taken just as the sun was rising. An early morning walk through your local woods - before all the joggers and dog walkers have crawled out of bed - is not only a beautiful experience by itself but also affords you one of the best possible opportunities to spot a deer.
They are often far less wary at this time due to the peace and quiet and so by gently creeping around slowly and silently it is often possible to catch sight of deer long before they see you and get some decent photos.
As another useful strategy, look in your camera's instruction manual to try and turn off any noises your camera might make - such as the artificial "click" many cameras make as they take a photograph. This will further help to keep you undetected and maximize your chances of success.
Whilst deer are sometimes found in towns and cities they generally prefer a countryside. From forests to open fields it is a smart idea to do some background research on the species you would like to photograph so that you know where to focus your efforts. Do they prefer coniferous or deciduous woodland? Do they like open fields? Are they found singly or in groups? Do your research so can not only target the most suitable habitat but also have a decent idea of the general shape of the deer you're searching for to help you pick them out of the shadows of a shady woodland.
The faster you move the more scared a deer will be and the sooner it will try to run away. So a key tip for photographing a deer is to move slowly and silently about the countryside. By scanning the area in front of you and targeting the right habitat it is often possible to set eyes on deer before they see you.
However for best results, rather than stalking deer try to find a suitable position and then wait for them to come to you. A great position for photographing deer is to find a grassy field next to a woodland. Hide away behind some trees, ensuring that the wind is blowing towards you and the sun is behind you. Yes, I know this can take some time but this gives you the best possible chance of success.
In this way the deer won't be able to smell you because the wind will be carrying your scent away rather than towards them. The sun will be shining into the eyes of the deer making it harder for them to pick you out - and also affording you better light to photograph them. Combine this with the plants around you and you become virtually invisible to deer.
At dawn and dusk many deer wonder out of the safety of the forest and into nearby fields to browse on fresh, lush grass and deer can be easier to both see and photograph out in the open like this. By finding a suitable place like this and setting myself up comfortably I have personally had hundreds of deer wonder right past me - totally unaware I am there - and all the while my camera has been working non-stop!
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