Our Great Locations synopsis is dedicated to ferreting out areas that are readily accessible to the public and relatively cost effective to visit, especially if you enjoy camping. It is important that you have a very clear idea of what you wish to accomplish prior to visiting a location and prepare accordingly. Here you will find recommendations on time of year, lens choice, clothing and other pertinent information we found made our visits productive and enjoyable.
Location choice depends, of course, on what you are trying to accomplish. Sites to simply experiment with light, movement or backdrop are relatively easy to find. Moreover, unless you live in a very productive area, you will soon exhaust the locations you have become familiar with locally as each will undoubtedly have a limited selection of resident or migrating species at any given time of the year. Targeting a new species is somewhat more problematic. The issue here is really one of when and where the subject is relatively abundant and readily accessible. An online search is perhaps the best method for at least getting started. Another solution is to find a wildlife photographer that offers an organized "photo tour" that keys on your target species and has a theme that will improve your skill level. Although this can be expensive depending on the objective(s) and location you have chosen, cost effective courses are available in great locations if you want to accomplish something as simple as experiencing perch and blind photography for the first time. We have found these to be invaluable in advancing our learning curve early on. After completing our first two years in the field, a Greg Downing digital photography course on a ranch in Roma, Texas helped immensely to hone our "self-taught" rough edges. This, combined with Greg's abundant patience, really solidified the "basics" from perch and composition theory to manual camera operation, workflow and enhancement techniques.
Recommending good locations comes with a qualifier. You will soon discover as you travel that concern for the environment is an extremely important issue when it comes to bird and wildlife photography. We often encounter residents who fear that authorities such as Fish And Wildlife or other governing bodies will restrict access if habitat is compromised or wildlife stressed through overuse or reckless behavior. This is obviously a valid concern and somewhat in conflict with our objective to provide advice to beginners looking for readily accessible locations that yield exceptional results for time spent. We're constantly amazed at how intrusive some photographers can be, especially with nesting birds. Behavior such as this has tended to translate into a definite dislike of bird and wildlife photographers, especially by birding groups or others concerned with environmental issues. We certainly don't want to see any habitat spoiled or wildlife stressed as closure would obviously be a disaster (see our Ethics synopsis for a more detailed treatment of the major issues).
Nonetheless, we recommend the following locations as sites to practice your craft and where you can expect opportunities commensurate with wildlife concentration. Each site is readily accessable and won't cost a fortune to enjoy. Some are "workshops" which, in our opinion, are well worth the expense in terms of the learning experience and simply the pleasure of being guided for a change. We do add the proviso that all locations require use of common sense and we encourage you to employ sensitivity and practice basic conservation while visiting. To achieve good results, it is best to note our time of year recommendation. To date, our favourite bird and wildlife locations include:
- Oregon (Fort Rock, Summer Lake, Burns, Fields, Malheur NWR) And Northern California (Klamath Basin)
- Coastal California (Huntington Beach, San Diego, Morro Bay, Moss Landing)
- New Mexico (Bosque del Apache)
- South And Central Vancouver Island (Victoria, Nanaimo, Parksville, Qualicum)
- South Central Arizona (Phoenix, Tucson, Madera Canyon, Amado) And South Eastern California (Salton Sea)
- Southern Texas (South Padre Island, Rockport)
- Alaska By Road (Anchorage, Hyder)
- Alaska By Air (Brooks River, St. Paul Island, Barter Island)
- Alberta (Jasper, Banff And Waterton Lakes National Parks)
- Wyoming (Sage Brush Grasslands, Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Parks)
- North Western Colorado (Mount Evans, Rocky Mountain National Park)
- Vancouver (Lower Mainland)
- Southern Montana
- South Dakota
For the most part, scouting natural landscape locations is a time consuming and often frustrating activity from the perspective that decisions regarding time of day and season must be evaluated as part of how you intend to translate any scene’s potential into a meaningful photograph. Moreover, weather invariably doesn’t cooperate with even the best intentions. As such, recommending natural landscape locations comes with the proviso that the landmark will undoubtedly be there but that myriad of other uncontrollable factors most certainly require management and in most cases a little serendipity to achieve any degree of success. We therefore date our posted natural landscape images and include what we feel is the best time of day in the narrative. To date, albiet a slow start, our favourite natural landscape locations are:
- The Canadian Rockies
- The Canyons and Deserts of Utah and Arizona
- Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks
- Yosemite National Park and the Eastern Sierra Great Basin
We consider all the above sites to be exceptional and each will, in our opinion, greatly enhance some aspect of your learning experience. Our recommendations are based on first-hand experience. Bookmark this synopsis as we continually update and add new locations as we travel and experience new areas.