So how do I get photos of local animals? I have a 400mm telephoto lens on my DSLR, so I can take clear photos of animals from a distance. I used a removable camo tape to cover all the non-movable parts. The bright, shiny white would have been a major "Hey, Look at Me!" to all animals. Sometimes I will drive around the mountains to see what I can find. I have been able to photograph deer, elk, rabbits, and coyotes this way. I also hike. Hiking with this camera in hand makes for a good workout, especially on the hills and in canyons around here. On my hikes, I take photos for backgrounds and natural textures like rock and tree bark. I don't often see animals larger than a squirrel while hiking. I am fortunate to get mule deer behind my house, so I can often photograph them from my porch. Sometimes, and this is something I want to do more, I pack up all my camo gear and find a hiding spot. I have a blind, a ghillie head piece, a little tripod seat, an electronic caller, and a hand-held elk caller. I have only used this setup once or twice, but I was able to get the interest of a couple coyotes. I realize that the hunters know what they are doing, so I am reading hunting techniques, but instead of shooting the animals with a gun or arrow, I am shooting them with my camera.
|Canon EOS Rebel T3i with 70-400mm IS telephoto lens|
In my limited experience, I have not been able to find what I call the big three of my area: black bears, bobcats, and the holy grail, the mountain lion. I got a bobcat on my critter cam once, but it was a dark shot. Oh, to see a wild one in person! This is when I take a trip to the local wildlife rehab center. They have several unreleaseable animals, including four bobcats, a few gray foxes, and many raptors. Captive animals will have some differences from their wild counterparts, such as being a bit chunkier, but these animals, the birds in particular, at the rehab center, often have physical deformities that prevent their release. The peregrine falcon, for example, flew at top speed into a power line. He has neurological damage and one wing droops permanently. Several of the birds are missing an eye, or have wing fractures that prevent them from folding their wings in correctly. These things need to be taken into account when drawing them.
Even then, there are animals I cannot find there, either. This is when I turn to the internet. Sites such as WetCanvas.com and PaintMyPhoto.com offer royalty-free photos for artists to use. The danger with this, however, is you don't always know where the photos were taken. Bobcats, for example, have a large range, and one from my area will not have the same color coat as one from the northeast US. Coat color and texture often changes with the season, too. It helps tremendously to research your animal before planning your drawing or painting.