By Jim Monteleone
I love the outdoors and all its creatures. There are days in the fall when I carry a bow and others when a firearm is the tool of choice. Then there are other days when I carry a Canon. Not a cannon but a Canon. It is a digital camera that offers me the opportunity to shoot quietly and use many of the skills that define success for a hunter.
There is stealth involved and there is a steady hand needed for clear and sharp images. I treat the shutter button much in the same way as I do the trigger on a firearm.
The beauty of photography is the many targets we can encounter as well as the absence of a limit, like those that govern hunting with something other than a camera. I choose to hone and refine the skills I have acquired over decades of hunting upland birds, mammals and waterfowl. Now the quarry is as varied as hummingbirds, butterflies, songbirds, reptiles and anything that flies, swims or walks. I have the freedom and the access to creatures of all sizes, and a myriad of places in which to pursue them. I have carried my camera to faraway places like British Columbia one week and to my back yard or a local park the following week.
“Hunting” with a camera requires the same commitment to scouting, stalking and sometimes remaining motionless for long periods of time. In other scenarios being very quiet and inching your way to within mere feet in order to cut the distances between the lens and the subject is an absolute requirement.
My standard equipment, until recently, has been a Canon T3i with either a 55/200mm or 75/300mm lens. These set ups require a maximum distance somewhere between 5 feet and 35 yards for optimum results. The challenges of capturing really good pictures include learning and knowing the habits and habitat of birds, insects, animals, and reptiles.
Lighting is Key
The use of light is a key component. I generally attempt to keep the sun light behind me and on the subject(s). I also choose to shoot in manual focus even on moving subjects. It takes practice, but the principles of wing shooting have allowed me to overcome the technical difficulties associated with animals and birds with explosive flight and retreat instincts. Allow for a wider frame to capture movement and swing the camera through the action without stopping until the shutter has been activated.
My inspiration for long hours and long walks is the desire to bring vivid images of both simple and exotic creatures in their native habitat to those who appreciate nature. My reward is the expressed appreciation by nature enthusiasts for the images and the funds raised in donations of my photography to events that benefit children’s and veteran’s charities.