Photographing wildlife with a SLR camera trap seems easy in concept. Place a camera trap in the wilderness, let it sit there, and have it take amazing pictures while you rest at home. This isn’t quite the case. One of the hardest parts about camera trap photography is getting your set-up to work like you want it to. The camera and flashes have to be ready to take a picture at moments notice, but need to also conserve batteries enough to last for an extended period of time. And then everything has to be safe in a serious down drench. Finally the biggest challenge of all is that you can’t buy professional camera traps at a store, ready to use out of the box. Even national geographic cameras use customized set-ups.
For inspiration, visit two of my favorite blogs. Chris Wemmer’s blog Camera Trap Codger which is not only filled with witty, educational, and fun writing but also accompanied by great camera trap images; as well as Jake Kirkland and Christian’s Camera Trapping Campus blog, filled with great stories and it hits close to home for me since I also got my degree from UCSC. All of them ‘hack’ much of their equipment to function for the camera trapping needs!
Once you have the equipment figured out the really fun part starts. Its time to hit the field to select your location for your camera trap. Natural game paths are always a perfect option, they provide ample chances for wildlife to walk by. During set-up, take the appropriate time since there can’t be any quick adjustments made once the camera is in place. Using yourself always works:
After you are done setting up you want to leave it be, it will take a while for your smell to be masked by nature’s more natural smells and some time for the animals to get used to the new objects in their environment (don’t think they don’t know its there).
After some time you will get your first shots. In the beginning most likely just your neighbors pet:
Maybe even some behavioral images:
Of course many times you will get another curious human:
In the end though, when you get a shot like this, you are quite the happy camper:
When ever you go to check the camera and replace batteries its like Christmas. You don’t know what you will get except a bunch of happy surprises. Camera trapping is a great way to get an intimate view into the lives of animals you may hardly see. It is something I very much cherish.