Tip #60: Silence is Golden
I am certified as a Leave No Trace instructor. The 7th principle is Be Considerate of Other Visitors. Among other concepts this includes being quiet or keeping noise levels to a minimum when in nature. Remember, we are visitors in the world of wildlife and Mother Nature when we venture into the outdoors.
When photographing wildlife, it is important to reduce your disturbance to the animal. These types of photos will actually make better shots for you as you capture the animal doing their normal activities, such as looking for food, feeding babies or looking for a mate.
Most if not all wildlife photographers - myself included - have at one time or another used a call or clucked or whistled to get the attention of an animal. In many cases, a better photo will be when the animal looks directly at the camera. But in reality, the best way to do this is to just be patient.
I have actually found that many animals will just ignore you or all you will get is a flattening of the ears, a trait you do not want in a photo as it shows the animal annoyed or in distress. Photos of animals should show the subject calm, natural and at ease. Their body language communicates this.
This photo of a grizzly bear is an example of what happens when an animal is disturbed by human activity.
I was in Yellowstone National Park talking with another photographer when this grizzly bear walked into a sage meadow. We started photographing the bear as he dug in the snow and mud looking for grubs.
He was minding his own business when two vans full of tourists pulled up. More than a dozen tourists started pouring out of the vans, cameras in hand and squeals coming out of each person as a reaction to their excitement of seeing a grizzly.
The bear immediately stood up on his hind end to see what this annoying noise was. Not only did the squealing disrupt the quietness of the outdoors but it caused the bear to change his behavior. As soon as he stood up the tourists yelled, ran back to the van and drove off.
Although the other photographer and I continued to photograph the scene, the bear clearly was looking in a different direction. The photo tells a story, which is ultimately what any photo should do but not at the expense of the animal's energy or safety.
So remember when you are outdoors, there are many living things, including other people, that will be disturbed by noisy visitors. You may be breaking the serenity of the person snowshoeing as they seek peace and quiet from their hectic life. You may cause a photographer, who is working at making a living in the outdoors, to lose an opportunity to photograph animals doing normal activities. Or you may be disturbing a very large grizzly bear wondering what you are doing.
Stay safe out there and enjoy the solitude and serenity of what Mother Nature has created.
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