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Winter months provide ample opportunity for outdoor photography
Now that the leaves are off the trees, it's a good time to take a walk in the woods with a camera or cell phone ---- with camera capabilities that you can use in the area of any one of the big impoundments.
Carefully walking through the woods with a camera or cell photo in hand rarely results in more than blurred images as well as an occasional scenic shot. There is a lot more to this kind of photography than most hobbyists realize.
All good wildlife photographers know the importance of the three P's: preparedness, patience and practice.
Anyone with outdoor experience already appreciates the importance of being prepared. In this case, it means that the right camera equipment is right for the job and in proper working order. The 35-millimeter is by far the most popular format and digital cameras with a zoom lens are the most common.
The most common mistake in wildlife photography is blurred images, but fast shutter speeds will usually fix this problem.
Knowing the area and its wildlife is important. If whitetail deer are going to be photographed, knowing its habits will save time and a lot of frustration. Most other wildlife are the same way.
Information sources are as close as the local library, your computer or local hunters. Books and your computer provide general information and hunters can tell you about local patterns most wildlife tend to follow, as well as where they are most plentiful. The best way to learn about wildlife is in time spent in the woods. For example, it won't take long to learn that deer maintain the same habits day-after-day now that most of the deer seasons are over.
It is said that photography is the art of painting with light. This is especially true in wildlife photography. Once you know where you are likely to find animals, it is important to visit the locations at various times of the day to study light. A good photo blind or stand will put you close to the animals. It also takes advantage of utilizing the best light.
The way you dress is equally important in most types of wildlife photography. Clothing needs to be comfortable, convenient as well as camouflaged and quiet.
Being upwind from a 12-point buck is not the time to be shooing a bug off your face. On warm days you might include insect repellent as part of your gear. Getting that great shot for even the best wildlife photographer is not an easy task.
Most outdoor magazine wildlife covers didn't come from shooting out of the window of your vehicle. I know of several good wildlife photographers that have sat in a blind for hours and even days before they got a good shot. They know that most wildlife have senses that tell them when humans are around.
It might be difficult to get good wildlife shots, but when you do, it can be rewarding. I know of a dedicated wildlife photographer who spent hours in a duck blind to get a good shot.
Finally, on a cold and rainy morning at Four Rivers Conservation Area he was able to get a great shot of a flock of mallards sailing into the decoys in front. As a result of that shot he can relive that moment by looking at the 20-by-24 inch color photo he has hanging in his den at home. It was well worth the wait.
With the digital cameras that are available today, it's much easier to shoot a lot of photos in a short time, giving an amateur photographer a better chance to get a good shot.
Bob Richardson, Columbia, is a hunter, angler, boater and amateur photographer who always takes his camera when he hits the outdoor trail. During the week between Christmas and New Year's Day, he has shot some very good photos of wildlife and fish.
He said, "Taking my camera along on hunting and fishing trips has paid off big time. I have several albums full of those outings that I can look back and reflect on all those memories of days gone by."