Whether you’re a nature photography beginner or you have a little more experience under your belt, this blog and video is for you, as I’ll be sharing some wildlife photography tips and techniques that will help you blend into the environment better, get you closer to your subjects in a respectful, safe manner, and ultimately help you get much better wildlife photos, all without having to spend a fortune on a more powerful wildlife photography lens. How, you may be asking? All these things can be accomplished by properly utilizing the art of camouflage! But as you’ll find out, there is much more to becoming invisible than simply wearing camouflage clothing.
Getting great wildlife photos is not simply a matter of having a good camera and a long, powerful, expensive lens. There’s a lot of work and a great deal of preparation and planning that goes into consistently capturing fantastic images of wild animals. One major tactic for success is to be able to blend into the environment as much as possible to minimize your presence. This is especially the case when attempting to photograph elusive animals that live in places where human activity is rare. Thoroughly blending into the environment is not only a matter of not being seen though. Human-related scents and sounds can give away your presence just as easily…if not more so…than wearing bright-colored clothing that can be seen by every living creature for miles around. In this two-part video series, we’ll take a look at a complete system for becoming as invisible and undetectable as possible for your wildlife photography efforts.
To start things off, let’s talk about camo clothing. Wearing camouflage clothing while on a wildlife photo shoot can be a simple, yet highly productive way to become virtually invisible to many species of wildlife…especially those that don’t have the best sense of smell are who are not all that wary of human presence. While there are dozens of camo patterns out there to choose from, picking out an effective one is not all that complicated. The essential principle is to select a camouflage pattern that matches the color, contrast, and visual texture of the environment you’ll be in. So as a first step, before buying a new set of camo clothes, be sure to evaluate the area that you will be photographing in and then try to choose garments and patterns that will match that area the best.
In those circumstances where you’ll be photographing animals that are not all that wary or who are somewhat used to human presence, you might not even have to wear clothing with all the complex camo patterns at all. Quite often, just having clothing with the proper natural color scheme, or “earth tones,” of your environment will work fine. On the other hand, though, in those situations that you are photographing highly elusive animals that are intolerant of human activity, it might be necessary to go well beyond wearing earth toned or camo clothing, and go to the next level of concealment by making use of what’s known as a “ghillie suit.” Ghillie suits are used by military snipers in situations where they must literally become as invisible as possible to avoid detection by the enemy. A ghillie suit is essentially an outfit made out of 3D blind or netting material that you can attach natural debris to from your immediate surroundings, such as grass, leaves, weeds, sticks, etc. So again, if you’re photographing extremely wary animals, a ghillie suit can indeed be an incredibly powerful tool. They can be bought in a variety of pre-made colors and sizes, or you can easily make one by simply buying some camo netting or blind material, cutting it to the size and shape of a rain poncho, and filling it with natural material out in the field. And very importantly, don’t forget to cover your face, as that’s often one of the first things an animal will visually detect you by.
Use Quiet Clothing
No matter what you choose for clothing, whether it’s utilizing earth tone colors, camo patterns, or going to the more extreme measure of a ghillie suit, another important clothing characteristic is that of silence. Most quality camouflage clothing that’s generally designed for hunting purposes is made from “quiet” materials such as wool, fleece, or a variety of synthetic blends. But there are also many popular fabrics out there that are not so quiet, that you’ll want to avoid. An easy test you can do while shopping for wildlife photography clothing is to simply scratch the garment. If it makes a loud, “scratchy” sound, try to avoid it and find something less noisy.
This may be a little more difficult to do when shopping for a quiet “shell layer” of clothing such as wind and rain gear, as those garments tend to be made of materials such as Gore-tex, heavy-duty polyester, nylon, rubber, etc. As I always recommend though, don’t skimp on a quality shell layer…even if it is a little noisy. If it’s windy and raining like crazy, it’s going to be very noisy in the wilderness anyway, and many animals will be bedded down and be fairly inactive. However, if the species of wildlife you intend to photograph is active in windy, rainy environments, an option for silencing your noisy raingear is to wear a heavy fleece jacket on top of your shell layer of clothing to keep it quiet. I have a fairly inexpensive, one-size larger, heavy fleece camo jacket that I bring along on such occasions strictly for this purpose and it works great!
As an important side note on the topic of blending into the environment with camo clothing, keep in mind that many animals will notice and be startled by movement much more so than by color. In fact, even while wearing camo clothing, fast, careless movement, along with scent, are the first things that will alert most animals to your presence. So even if you’re camouflaged from head to toe, always move as slowly and deliberately as possible and be ready to freeze for long periods of time.
In the next episode in this two-part series, we’ll take a look at the topic of camouflaging your scent so you can smell invisible, which again, in most cases is even more important than visual camouflage. Check out the video below to see more...