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Beginner Photography: Wildlife

Hahahahhaha oh man you guys, wildlife photography is not something you can just take up for a day. This stuff is serious. If you want actual, helpful wildlife tips, please visit this page of our site and learn from a real photographer, because what will follow here is just tomfoolery. 

I do not blame myself for my failure this week. Wildlife photography takes the proper gear, knowledge, and lots of time and patience. I have literally none of those things. Not to mention, it’s Autumn in a city. All we’ve got are squirrels.

To take proper wildlife shots, it helps to have a lens with reach, so you can take close shots without actually getting close. You also need a spot where you can sit still and let animals get acclimated to your presence, camouflage and a bird blind would help you blend in and get closer. If shooting birds, choose a background and wait for them to come to you. Keep shooting the same spot until a bird comes into the space. A flowering tree and direct sunlight makes for a great setting.

So here’s what I attempted (and failed) to do:

  • lure wildlife into my backyard with bread (my dog ate most of it)
  • go to a park and stalk squirrels
  • walk around my neighborhood hitting up all the best gardens hoping to catch birds

So birds, smartly, avoid my yard. I have a big dumb dog. If I go out back and let him out, he scares everything away. If I don’t let him out, he whines and barks at the door, scaring everything away. So my baiting was a bust.

Next I went to the closest park. There were plenty of squirrels running around, but the adjective “squirrelly” exists for a reason. I generally shoot in aperture priority, but that seemed like a bad call with this fast of a target, so I switched over to shutter priority. That… didn’t work either. I wound up with VERY dark pictures of squirrels in trees. So then I just shot in automatic. Here’s the result:

Sigh. A blurry head and a sharp tail.

You guys. That is actually the best photo I got out of, I dunno, 50? I went home dejected, scanning gardens on the way. 

Right by the steps up to our porch we have a butterfly bush, which two weeks ago might have gotten me shots of a monarch butterfly or two before they migrated. As it was, though, I was left with some bees.

Not great, it’s not facing me so I didn’t get the eye in focus

Once again. Got that butt though.

I like that I got it cleaning it’s antenna, but I seem to have focused on the back leg

So all in all, the bees were my most successful attempt, and those probably count as macro. I certainly don’t have the equipment for that either, but they made a far better subject than the squirrels. I also had a great backdrop in the butterfly bush and direct overhead lighting.

Bonus: here’s a picture of my cat, indoor wildlife.

Hi Frank!

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Beginner Photography: Still Life

YOU GUYS, photography is hard. This subject broke me. We don’t have a live show this week to base my blog off of, so I decided to do something “easy”, still life. Here’s a great video Chelsea made to teach you the basics:

I was sick this weekend and leaving the house was an impossibility, so I thought “hey, I have stuff! I can just do a still life!” But no. I think this project broke me.

We have no shortage of interesting looking objects in my house, and a ton that are meaningful, so that part didn’t seem so hard. What was hard was finding a backdrop and lighting. First I tried putting everything on a leather chair. But nope! Everything was slanted and cramped. 


Dark! Cramped!


Then I put everything on my dining room table, but that’s just silly because the background is a wall or my kid’s toys or the kitchen.


No, Siobhan. Why? So dark. Such hard overhead light.


Then, in a last ditch effort I used by bedroom rug, with a duvet as the backdrop. The lighting was better, natural light off to the left, dim lamp to the right, but the backdrop became the bane of my existence. It was so wrinkly. SO WRINKLY. I swapped out some of my original objects to a few that wouldn’t swallow the light (that dark wood and dark metal weren’t doing me any favors) and added some flowers and feathers to add a leading line back to the globe. But then I spent well over an hour trying to blur/smooth/blend the background so that it wouldn’t look so distractingly wrinkled. To no avail. So here, friends, is me giving up:


I just… ugh. I can’t even.

So there you have it: some old dirty stuff that represents my family? I’m sorry guys. Oof.