How to Photograph Dangerous Animals

While photographing nature and wildlife, remember some animals are predators and can definitely pose a threat to a photographer. Alligators, bears, bobcats, and panthers, to name a few, are animals that you must photograph with extreme caution.

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Here are essential tips to keep in mind when you encounter a potentially dangerous animal you’d like to photograph:

  • Keep your distance. The only way to photograph a dangerous animal is from a distance. Get as close as you safely can, and then use your longest telephoto lens.

    If you have a camera that captures lots of megapixels, you can do a bit of judicious cropping to remove extraneous background and still have enough pixels to get a good 8 x 10 print.

  • Stay downwind. Animals have a keen sense of smell. If you’re upwind from the animal, it will sense your presence. You have a much better chance of not being on the animal’s radar if you’re downwind.

  • Stay behind cover. Stay in a place where you can photograph the animal but the animal cannot see you. Good research will tell you where the animals congregate and what time they congregate there. Arrive ahead of time and find a hiding place that is downwind from the animal.

  • Don’t try to entice the animal. Even many dangerous animals will have respect for someone as large as a human adult. However, if you try to entice the animal with food, or otherwise antagonize it, all bets are off.

    Some nature photography books suggest using peanut butter to entice animals, but this is not permitted in state parks. Another problem is that the scent stays on your fingers and in your clothes, which alerts animals to your presence. Bears in particular have a keen sense of smell. Being a “Bear Magnet” is not a good thing!

  • Always travel with a buddy. A pair of humans is more intimidating than one. You and your buddy can watch each other's back.

  • Have an escape route. When you decide to photograph dangerous animals, scout out the location before you set up and have an escape route that gives you quick access to safe grounds or a shelter.

    If a dangerous animal intimidates you, don’t take time to break down a tripod. Take an orderly retreat to your haven and come back for your gear later. Camera gear can be replaced. Your life can’t.

  • Photograph dangerous animals when they’re feeding. If you’re lucky, you may find a place from which you can safely photograph animals feeding. To get these types of pictures requires a bit of luck and a long telephoto lens.

  • Photograph a sequence of images. Shoot in continuous drive mode when you find animals doing something interesting. Press the shutter button when the animal becomes active and capture a sequence of images.

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