From majestic elk to tiny salamanders and everything in between, West Virginia’s rugged mountains, lush forests and beautiful lakes are teeming with wildlife. And one of the best ways to enjoy West Virginia’s abundant wildlife is by photographing them in their habitat. So, grab your camera and plan an outdoor adventure to a West Virginia state park or forest or wildlife management area. Here are a few tips that will help you take better nature and wildlife photos. 

Know your subject

There’s one thing about wildlife photography you need to understand before you get started. Patience is key. Whether you’re in the field waiting for an eagle nest to show signs of activity or snapping photos of squirrels in your backyard, you are merely an observer. You can’t ask an animal to look at the camera or do something photogenic. You have to wait and sometimes wait some more. But that’s part of the experience. Patience is almost always rewarded.

As you wait and watch wildlife, keep an eye out for behavior patterns you can use to your advantage. For instance, you may notice a bird visits the same branch each morning or a deer favors a specific spot in a field. If you aren’t familiar with an animal, do some research and spend time observing them in the wild. Most animals are active early in the morning and late in the evening. Once you know where they like to go, get there early, settle in and wait. And keep a journal to help you remember everything.

Know your gear

Animals move fast and they can be unpredictable. If you want to capture them in action, make sure you know how to use your camera in various conditions before you go into the field.

Here’s a few things to keep in mind:

  • Make sure your camera can lock focus on a moving subject.
  • Use a shutter speed that will freeze wildlife in action.
  • Dial in your ISO and aperture settings to create a proper exposure.

Should you need to make an on-the-fly adjustment, make sure you are familiar with your camera so you can do so without taking your eye off the viewfinder. Practice taking photos of birds or other animals that visit your backyard. Before long, you’ll know your camera like the back of your hand and be well on your way to capturing larger wildlife in action.

Know your limits

Wildlife photography would be easier if you could get close to animals without them running or flying away. But the reality is that most animals would rather be left alone. So, respect their space, keep a reasonable distance and don’t set out food or anything else that might attract wildlife. Observing wildlife in nature is a privilege. If you treat it as such, your patience will be rewarded.

Visit a West Virginia State Park

As you take photos of West Virginia’s wildlife, don’t forget to enjoy your time outside. West Virginia’s state parks and forests are some of the best places to see wildlife in action. Wildlife management areas also are great places to see animals in their habitat. So, plan a trip, pack up your camera gear and get outside!

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