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Dec 27, 2011
This time of year my thoughts go not only to holidays and family, but to photographing the wildlife in my own backyard.
I live in town, not out in the wilderness where you might expect a lot of critters roaming, but I’ve found with a few bird and squirrel feeders it’s easy to attract animals right to your camera.
With a little research you can learn what kind of feeders and food will bring what kinds of birds and animals. Squirrels tend to like corn, nuts and sunflower seeds. Different varieties of birds like various seeds.
Photographing the wildlife can be done through the windows where it’s easier to hide and not scare them away. Wearing dark colors and keeping the lights off inside the house will help as well. If you’ve got a window that opens toward the feeders your images will be clearer and sharper, but even shooting through the window glass can provide decent photos.
I realize everyone isn’t going to spend the money on the equipment to do it, but I’ve had fairly good luck setting up a remote-controlled camera on a tripod outdoors and then sitting inside to watch and fire the camera with the push of a button.
One of the tricky things is that these smaller animals tend to move quickly and not sit in one spot for too long. This makes photographing them good practice for shooting other action activities like kids’ sports or rodeo. Choosing higher shutter speeds to freeze motion and working on your reaction to interesting poses helps capture fun moments.
Birds in flight almost always make great photos, but tracking them, keeping them in focus and catching just the right position of the wings can be tricky. Practice, practice, practice! Digital photography makes it easy to shoot many photos and simply delete the bad ones. So don’t be afraid to keep trying until it all comes together in that one spectacular shot.
Another fun tip is to make sure your bird feeder is next to a bush or tree with handy branches for perching on. After you’ve watched a while you can begin to guess where the birds tend to land before approaching the feeder. Pre-focusing on that spot will give you a head start on getting a good photo. I have a small branch attached to one of my feeders for that purpose.
Have a great holiday season and if you aren’t traveling far from home for photo opportunities, take a look in the backyard!
Chad Coppess is the senior photographer at the South Dakota Department of Tourism. He lives in Pierre with his wife, Lisa. To view more of his work, visit www.dakotagraph.com.