Welcome to part two of the How to Get Close / Wildlife Photography blog and video series. In part one, I covered the ever-important topic of proper wildlife photography etiquette, which is the foundation for everything else I’ll be covering in this series. So if you haven’t watched part one yet, please be sure to do so by clicking here. In this second episode, we’ll be exploring the topic of wildlife photography blinds, or as they are sometimes called, photography hides, which can be a very effective tool for capturing some fantastic wildlife images.
There are many ways to safely, respectively, and effectively close the distance and get to within optimal camera range of your wildlife photography subjects. One such way is by using camouflage techniques. I did a two-part video series a while ago in which I covered the basics of using camouflage clothing as well as ways to camouflage your human scent, which is one of the first things a wild animal will detect your presence by…no matter if you’re camouflaged from head to toe. Along with utilizing camouflage clothing techniques, using a blind of one kind or another is a highly effective tool for keeping yourself well hidden from the wildlife subjects you’re trying to photograph.
What is a Wildlife Photography Blind?
A photography blind or photography hide is simply an apparatus that you can hide in or behind that keeps animals from seeing you. As an example, if you have a lot of camera gear with you and are going to be doing a fair amount of moving around during your photo shoot, such as changing lenses, putting on extra layers of clothes, eating lunch, and things of that sort, then a blind will do just that, it will “blind” wildlife from seeing all your movement and commotion. Don’t forget, along with your human scent, movement, even very subtle movement, is one of the first things that wary wild animals will detect your presence by. And upon detecting your presence, you guessed it, gone in a flash!
Portable, packable, wildlife photography blinds come in many sizes, shapes, colors, and camouflage patterns. They can be as complex as an entire tent-like structure, or as simple as a large camouflaged umbrella or a piece of blind material stretched in-between a couple of trees or bushes to sit down and hide behind. Stores that sell hunting supplies typically have a wide variety of both premade blinds and blind material if you prefer to make your own.
How to Properly Use a Wildlife Photography Blind
No matter what kind of blind you use, you’ll want to set it up in an area where it will be at least somewhat hidden so it’s not totally obvious to wildlife. Very importantly, you’ll also want to set it up in a place that’s downwind from the animals you’re attempting to photograph, as again, if your subject animal detects your scent, it’ll most likely leave the area quickly, no matter how well hidden you may be. So be sure and check the dominant wind direction before setting up. Also, no matter what kind of blind you use, make sure to clear out any noisy debris such as dried leaves and twigs which could make a ruckus while you’re maneuvering around and alert wildlife to your presence.
Just as with choosing proper camouflage clothing, it’s also very important to make sure your blind or blind material matches the color, contrast, and visual texture of the area you’ll be photographing in. For educational purposes, the blind in the photo below can easily be seen, but hopefully it will give you some ideas for making and using a blind made out of simple blind material. To blend in further, you can also weave in twigs, small branches, grass, and weeds to give your blind an extra element of realism.
Again, if you set your blind up in a wide-open area with no cover, most wildlife will easily spot it, they’ll be very wary of it, and will most likely avoid the area…at least at first. Now if you’re photographing animals in habitat that really doesn’t have any other cover, an effective tactic is to leave your blind set up for several days to several weeks so the animals get used to it and don’t associate it with human activity or danger. After this initial introduction period, you should then be able to use your blind quite productively, again, as long as the wind cooperates, and you can get in and out of your blind without being detected. So always be sure the coast is clear before and after your photo shoot.
An effective alternative to using a premade blind or blind material is to make a blind strictly with what nature provides. Nestling into the center of some dead-fallen trees, a big pile of sticks and leaves, a riverbank with tall weeds or root wads, or just a large mound of snow, dirt, or sand is often the perfect, most natural way to keep yourself hidden while photographing wildlife. And, if those sorts of things are not present at the optimal location for your photo shoot, then you can simply collect some natural debris from the immediate area such as tree limbs, weeds, etc., and fashion a simple “brush pile” like structure of some kind to hide behind wherever you may need it. If you’re in an area where using a natural blind is ideal, be sure to bring along a small pruning shears and a folding camp saw to help make your blind construction faster and easier. And don’t forget a small chair of some kind or a seat cushion to sit on. Essentially, anything that breaks up your human outline and form and conceals your movement will work as a natural blind.
A few other options for very effective wildlife photography blinds are things like old abandoned cabins, barns, or similar man-made structures that have been around for a long time and that animals don’t associate with human activity or danger. As a final suggestion, if you’re going to be photographing in an area that can be accessed by a vehicle, then your car, truck, or SUV may be all the blind you’ll need. In many remote settings that have at least some roads, animals are often quite used to seeing cars and trucks driving around and are not frightened by them, at least from a reasonable distance. If photographing from a vehicle is an option, a window-mounted camera rest is a great piece of equipment to invest in and it can come in very handy while out and about on a road system wildlife photography shoot.
So there you have it my friends. Those are some tips and suggestions for wildlife photography blinds. In the next blog and video in this series, we’ll take a look at utilizing tree stands, so be sure to subscribe to this channel so you don’t miss out. Check out the video below to see more…