Wildlife Week: Patience & Persistence

April 22, 2010

Photo Tips, Wildlife

Fighting Big Horn Sheep, Yellowstone NP, WY

[Editors Note: This week we are having a Wildlife Photography Tip every day here on DPE. Rick is also doing a tip a day on People photography over on his personal blog, make sure to check it out.]

If you want to be successful at wildlife photography you need two things; patience and more patience. Well, persistance helps as well.

In all seriousness, besides the few lucky shots we all get from time to time, you need loads and loads of patience and need to be very persistent in order to consistently make memorable images. Wildlife can’t be directed, rushed or posed, otherwise it would not be wildlife.

Here are three tips to help you:

  • 30 Minute Rule – When observing and photographing wildlife there is what is commonly referred to as the 30 minute rule. What this means is that once you enter an environment you have caused a disturbance with the wildlife within the immediate area. Wildlife will take approximately 30 minutes to “settle” down and accept your presence, given that you are still during this period and have broken your “human” outline. You break your outline by covering yourself with some simple camouflage netting or other similar material. You’ll be surprised how close some wildlife will get to you once you have done this.
  • Work Subjects Over and Over – This simply means never being “content” with the images you have of a specific subject or species; never thinking you have made the best image you’ll ever make. Keep working the same subjects over and over, make more images with different backgrounds, under different weather and light conditions, and during different times of the year. Just as an example, during my last “Winter in Yellowstone” photo workshop (Feb 2010) we had the opportunity to make quite a few images of big horn sheep, some under very spectacular conditions. Most workshop participants had dozens if not hundreds of images of the sheep. On a different day, we ran into the sheep again and I asked the participants if they wanted to make some more images of the sheep, and all indicated that they thought they already had all the images they wanted/needed. I immediately stopped the vehicle and made everyone get out to make some more images, explaining that although I believed this was the same group of sheep, the conditions where not the same as the previous day and you never know what will happen. Not more than 15 minutes after we set up to make some more images the sheep started fighting! We spent the next hour or two making some incredible images like the one above! Had we continued on thinking we had all the images we ever wanted we would have missed this spectacular display!
  • Look for Patterns in Behavior – I have to admit that I am not the most patient person on the world, specially when I am sitting inside a blind in sweltering heat. In order to limit the amount of time I spend in situations like this, I look for patterns in behavior of my subjects and schedule my time in the blind accordingly. This way I maximize the chances of making great images while in the blind.

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This post was written by:

- who has written 347 posts on The Digital Photo Experience.

Juan is a wildlife photographer who currently lives in Maine. Juan lives and breathes photography and travels around the country making images, teaching and leading photo workshops. Juan’s favorite destination is Yellowstone in winter.

You can follow Juan on twitter at http://twitter.com/jpons

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4 Responses to “Wildlife Week: Patience & Persistence”

  1. Ken Toney Says:

    Juan, love your blog and the subject of wild life! I also follw Rick and yourself on the podcasts (can’t wait till the next one, goes against patience). I can so relate to you about working the subject over. So many times I have shot, say a concert, and thought I had the “perfect shot” then get home to find that an earlier shot was better and should have done more. I hope some day to get to one of your workshops (I have been following Rick for years) and just fyi I live in Spartanburg,SC just south of you on I85. Thanks and you know I will be watching you guys! Ken


    • Juan Pons Says:


      Thanks for the kind words and glad to hear you are enjoying the website and Podcast.

      Hope to see you at one of my workshops soon!

      All the best,




  1. […] Learning to hold still is the stepping stone to many wonderful natural moments.  Both hummingbirds and chickadees will land on outstretched hands that haven’t moved for some time (with hummingbirds, place your finger near a hummingbird feeder, like a perch, and wait, or do like this lady did; with chickadees, stand near your birdfeeder with seed in your outstretched hand—here is an excellent instructional on handfeeding.  Nature photography, for beginners and experts (here’s a fun example!) alike, begins with finding a good spot, and waiting as long as it takes  (if you’re into wildlife photography, here are some good tips. […]

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