Wildlife Photography:
What's Your Shooting Style?

What's Your Shooting Style?
     When you come across other wildlife photographers in the field, do you ever take time to watch how they work, or pay attention to how they're dressed, or take stock of what sort of equipment they are and aren't using? If you do, then you may be able to tell something of their personal shooting style.

Shoot and Scoot:
     The "Shoot and Scoot" is an opportunist, always on the go, only standing still long enough to snap a shot before moving on. He seldom wears camouflage, or even outdoorsman's clothing. He's more likely to be dressed like a tourist. He doesn't use big lenses because they are too heavy, bulky, hard to manage, and not portable enough for his flighty, rush rush hunt for subjects. Thus, he seldom uses a tripod. If there's some interesting action going on, he might hang around five or ten minutes until it settles, but then he's off, ever searching for something to shoot. And he never ventures far from his vehicle, in which he spends most of his time.

     The "Stakeout" takes his wildlife photography seriously. He's usually in a blind, or wearing some serious camouflage, which means you won't often see him. He'll arrive before sunrise, set up and sit for hours, patiently waiting for the creatures to come by for their portraits. He knows they're likely to come his way because he's already staked out the location and scouted it before he even brought his camera gear. He'll slog through water, mud and muck, even when it's freezing outside, to get to that special location he's chosen, lugging his heavy load of gear on his back. He plans which way the light and wind is coming from to make the most of his efforts. Whether or not he gets any great shots, he still enjoys the time spent with nature.

Drive By:
     Like the "Shoot and Scoot", the "Drive By" relies on his vehicle a great deal. Most often found in wildlife refuges and protected areas, the "Drive By" is mostly a product of the rules and regulations where he finds the wildlife subjects he wants. Often not allowed to even get out of his vehicle, he shoots out the window, his lens usually propped on a beanbag. If he were to get out of the vehicle, most likely the subjects he's photographing would scatter. If he's patient enough, some other yahoo, perhaps a "Shoot and Scoot", will come along and scare them away for him. Still, he makes the most of the opportunities he's given, and haunts the refuges like a ghost, ever searching for new subjects.

Down and Dirty:
     The "Down and Dirty" doesn't mind getting down and dirty, for he's trying his best to get on the level of the subjects he's photographing. Like the "Stakeout", he takes his photography seriously. Lying in the wet grass and weeds, or in the mud, or sand, he crawls along with the patience of a stalking panther. He cautiously slides ever closer to his subjects, hoping they will see him as a slow-moving, harmless intruder that is to be patiently tolerated and mostly ignored. He often spends an hour or more creeping closer to a single target in hopes of that intimate close-up he so desires. Sometimes he's camouflaged, at least to some degree, but it's not for the purpose of not being seen. It's more for the purpose of being less intrusive and less intimidating. Like the "Stakeout", patience is certainly a virtue required for his style of photography.

     The "Explorer" will go to great lengths, even more so than the "Stakeout", to find new subjects and new places. He spends more time looking than shooting, but for him it's as much about the adventure as it is about photography. In some instances, the photography is actually little more than a plausible excuse for the adventure, or a way to bring back something of what he's discovered. He's more likely to be dressed as the outdoorsman than in serious camouflage, though camouflage sometimes plays a part once he's found subjects of interest. He may go into the "Down and Dirty" mode, or even the "Stakeout" mode to get the photos he's after. In any event, like the "Stakeout", he's happy with the time spent with nature, whether he gets great photos or not.

Which one are you?
     Do you recognize yourself among these shooting styles? Perhaps you bounce from one to the other depending on circumstances and locations? Like myself, I suspect most everyone is more of a blend of two or three styles, leaning one way or the other to fit the situation and location. It's not so much important in any event, except perhaps to take stock of how you go about your craft, and maybe consider trying some other style on occasion to see if it works for you. ..... Oh, and please, don't be a "Shoot and Scoot".