How To Shoot Wildlife - Photoshoot That Is

Chamois - Rupicapra CarpaticaAn article in a national newspaper once said that Romania is home to one third of the large carnivores in Europe, another third belongs to Russia and the last third is scattered across the remaining continental Europe.

There's no doubt here you will find the largest variety of wildlife, like nowhere else on The Old Continent. And by wildlife I mean wild animals roaming free in the Carpathian forests - not in enclosed reserves like in western Europe.

As a mountaineer and outdoor enthusiast I often encountered wildlife on and off trails but I rarely caught any still photos or videos. Last autumn for example (2009), I was riding downhill my mountain-bike and I passed by two beautiful adult stags. I got scared of them, they got scared of me and they took off through the raspberry bushes, puffing nervously. Had I been wearing a GoPro camera on my bike helmet then, I would have shared some nice footage with you...

Since I've met Sebastian Mastahac, a passionate photographer, mountaineer and mountain guide, I gained more interest in wildlife photography. He's the man who knows the hidden spots for taking photos of bear, deer, owl, stag, chamois, wild boar, hawk, lynx and so on. He promised to take me bear shooting in the summer and I`m looking forward to that!

I asked him to give us some tips and ethic rules for taking wildlife photography:
  • Use a non scented soap before going outdoor hoping for an encounter with wild animals. Any hint of fragrance, deodorant, antiperspirant will be noticed by the animal - they have a fine smell sense - and they'll leave the spot so you wouldn't even know they were there.
  • Smoking or lighting a fire will scare them off as well.
  • Don't put any pressure on the animal! Be a distant and stealthy observer. This is the only way you will get the shots of your dreams with the animal in its natural habitat, showing normal behavior.
  • Never interfere with animals during their rut season, when they're nesting or when they nurture their young - this is especially dangerous with bears. Never put yourself between the mother bear and her cubs; chances are you may get killed!
  • Patience is of utmost importance. You may go in the woods ten times in a row and not get anything, not even a squirrel and then when you're waiting for your deer to appear, a silent lynx comes into view and you desperately press the shutter button over and over again. That's the reward nature gives to you for being patient and for respecting and protecting wildlife!
  • The best tactic is to learn where the animal hangs out and then find a good hide where you can observe it. Make sure the animal is never cornered - leave it some running way in case it sees or feels you.
  • There is no photography more important than the peace of the animals! They are in their home, unaware of you who are trying to immortalize them with your newly bought DSLR camera. If you cause them any trouble for that photo then you should reconsider what you're doing. Get yourself a telephoto lens and keep your distance!
  • Be sure to know as much as you can about taking photos and about the specific gear you carry with you. From exposure time to setting your tripod you must master it all! There's no time for testing when the subject is there for only a few seconds.
If you are a wildlife photographer in need for a guide to show you where to take shots in Carpathian Mountains then drop an email to Sebastian at ma5tac[@] and he'll be more than happy to assist you.

Camera gear used for taking the above and below photos:
  • Canon EOS 40D
  • Canon telephoto lens 300mm F4
  • Canon EOS 5D Mark II
  • Canon telephoto lens 500 mm F4
  • Nikon D3
  • Nikon telephoto lens 400 mm F2.8

A proof that even experts make their mistakes. But it's a known fact there's no other way of becoming proficient than going through failures ;-).

Respect nature!

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  1. One way to get closer to wildlife is to find places where animals have become acclimated to humans. Remember that when photographing action like moving animals than background is the most important thing in the image after the subject and the light, the simpler the background the better. If the story is the animal, keep the background simple to focus attention on the real subject.

    1. True. Good points.

      I've seen this in western countries - animals being comfortable around humans.

      But not here - here you are lucky if you see a lynx for instance. The animals are wild and I guess they behave like this coz they've been hunted so they shy away from humans.


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