Dawn and Dusk

Filed in Articles, Photography Tips on May.30, 2018

Dawn and Dusk are your best friends as a wildlife photographer, once you understand this and what happens at these times of the day it will change how you think within your own wildlife photography. It will also improve your own images , fieldcraft and general understanding of our beautiful yet fragile natural world.

Most of us will have some sort of wildlife around where we live, either in our garden or further afield in a local park or green space. If you sit quietly and wait in one of these places sooner or later something will appear and you maybe shocked and surprised seeing what lives so close to you. Dawn and dusk light is just beautiful to work in, but more importantly its when nature is most active.

For the first couple of hours and the last hours of each day wildlife is very busy going about their lives. Outside of the breeding sessions when you see more activity during the day, dawn and dusk are really the best times to get out among wildlife. Birds calling and defending their territories, mammals out scent marking , hunting and looking for food. Dawn and dusk lighting can also transform an image, adding a beautiful atmosphere within the photograph with loads of impact to the main subject.

Wildlife photography is challenging but extremely rewarding, taking the time to learn about the animal or subject is likely to pay off for you in creating opportunities for some wonderful, natural encounters. Learning about an animal’s behaviour is a very important role within wildlife photography. It benefits the images you get but allows the subject your with to get on with their lives and not be troubled by your presence.

There are two approaches when it comes to getting close to nature especially at dawn and dusk. The first is to conceal yourself so that the subject does not know that you are there. The second is stalking which takes more time and a lot more skill and patience to master.  Many species of mammals and birds will allow you to approach them closely if you are careful, respectful  and take your time. No fast movements, using the correct techniques, reading the land for yourself, seeing what’s in front of you.  Never make the mistake of walking directly towards your subject as the chances are the animal will have long gone.

Your approach needs to be slow and low, watching and listening, as other birds and animals will give your position away should you be seen.  Look for dry grass, leaves and gather a small amount in your hands and throw this into the air determining the wind direction.  Once you see which way the wind is blowing you can determine your approach better as most animals have a great sense of smell and it’s the first thing to give you away.

The wind always wants to be blowing into your face, this will blow your scent away and remember to forget the aftershave or perfume along with soaps that are high in perfume as these will be picked up from great distances away. As many animals and birds are very shy and very wary of humans you will need to take great care not to disturb your subject as your aim is to get close to photograph them not make them move or fear your presence.

Getting into place before the sun comes up is best, as you will have been there for a while before the sun comes up and the animal will not have see you. Using good fieldcraft skills twinned with the best times of day will greatly benefit your images but more importantly the subject comes first and foremost. Is camouflaged clothing really necessary? Many people have asked me this question and for me it’s part of the fieldcraft package, so the answer is yes.

The 3 S’s – Shape, Shine and Silhouette, need to be broken up,  disguise yourself as much as possible changing your physical appearance when you are working the ground. If you are working from a car or hide you still need to have in mind that the subject will still see and smell you, so the need to break up these 3 S’s is paramount in the field.  Avoid materials that rustle and its always a must to wear a hat to break up your silhouette along with gloves that cover your hands so light isn’t reflexed back from your exposed bright skin.

Your shape, skin exposed, straight lines formed by your body all need to be broken up.  Camouflage works by letting you blend into the habitat you are working in.  My own experiences and skills that I learnt from my army days have been invaluable and have proven that they are transferable to wildlife photography.

Being at one with nature is amazing and with time, effort and applying good fieldcraft everyone is capable of capturing wonderful images. Go out into your local area before first light, get into place, apply some of these fieldcraft tips and just sit and watch the whole area unfold before your very eyes. At the end of the day visit the same area and you will witness the same wildlife settling down in readiness for the nighttime.

I offer a variety of wildlife photographic workshops, photo tours and one to ones, they allow enthusiasts of all ages and experience the chance to capture wildlife. They are designed to help you improve in all the aspects of wildlife photography, while learning about the environment and the wildlife that it supports. They are designed to the very highest standard and to view what I offer please click here, many thanks.


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