Well, we sure have had some great early fall weather and the foliage has been terrific this year.
It’s been great for those who like to get out and hike in the great outdoors and local wildlife refuge areas have provided a lot of enjoyment for those who have been cooped up thanks to the virus deal.
I have seen more folks out hiking and photographing nature this year than ever before. I myself have a terrible addiction to nature photography and spend some time with the camera out there every day, sometimes just an hour but usually I get so caught up in it that it turns into many hours. This not only allows me to observe a lot of neat things in nature, it also keeps me from doing many other things that should be taken care of.
This October I have spent a lot of time along Feeder Road on the Iroquois National Wildlife Refuge, since the gate to the road was opened so the public could drive back along it. Folks can hike it when the gates are closed in the summer but I like to do my photographing from my vehicle so I wait until the road is open. One of the biggest things I have learned over many years of photographing wildlife is that birds and animals get very nervous when they see people out walking around or jumping out of their vehicles to get a “better” look. If you take your time and move up slowly on wildlife in your vehicle, you’ll get so much more out of it.
On Feeder Road, I have taken a ton of great shots of great egrets, great blue herons, ducks, geese, trumpeter swans and even some eagles. Often times I park off to one side of the road and wait for them to come to me. Being an old goose and duck hunter, the sight of those birds flying around just overpowers me and so capturing those “coming in” shots thrills me just as much as when a shotgun was in my hands instead of a camera. Of course, patience is very important in this endeavor, just as it was while hunting.
What I notice while “being patient” are the folks who are also using this area. Many are just hiking, others are watching nature and still others are trying to photograph it. Hikers and those exploring the great outdoors have to move around and so they really miss a lot — but they miss much too by not looking hard enough.
Recently I’ve noticed a lot of photographers that are losing out, too, by moving around too much. Most people are happy just getting pictures with their cell phones but quite a few serious photographers (those with telephoto lenses) don’t seem to really understand wildlife. The photographer who stops his vehicle quickly when some wildlife is spotted often just puts the subject into flight. The thing to do is just go by and come back, approaching slowly.
The other bad habit of would-be nature photographers is getting out of the vehicle to “sneak” a little closer. This really freaks out the wildlife! They are accustomed to vehicles going by but not people popping out of them. And very seldom do these photographers gain anything by getting just a “hair” closer. Often the result is a picture of the south end of something going north. Stay in your vehicle!
Ethics has a lot to do with nature photography, too. Disturbing wildlife — by getting too close to nesting birds, feeding creatures or chasing them off when they are resting — is always a “no-no.” So is “sneaking up” on another person who is observing or photographing. This person may have put some time into getting into that position only to have someone else ruin the situation. Be aware that you also should stay away from posted (off limits) areas on the Iroquois refuge; these areas are so designated to keep wildlife from being disturbed. People getting too close to nesting birds can cause abandonment of the nest. This behavior may also drive away a species that others would like to observe from a safe distance.
Earlier this month I witnessed two different serious photographers put the “sneak” to a family of trumpeter swans next to Feeder Road. Both parked in front of an “AREA CLOSED” sign and then got as close as they could until the birds were put in flight. Both of these folks had big lenses and didn’t need to get that close if they knew what they were doing. Big lenses don’t make up for poor “hunting” and poor photography skills. The sad part was many folks thus missed the opportunity to see these huge, majestic white birds that day.
Remember, hunting season is on, so act accordingly but get out there and enjoy. There are many areas on the Iroquois refuge that you can go where hunting is not allowed.
Doug Domedion, outdoorsman and nature photographer, resides in Medina. Contact him at (585) 798-4022 or email@example.com .