Monday, January 25, 2010

Auto Blind

Greetings to all,

The second most expensive blind I own is my car. Well technically the bank owns part of it. The most expensive one is my house. Problem with my house though is that it doesn't move and my car does. For many of you using an automobile as a blind is old news. For others of you new to wildlife photography it's not.

A lot of wildlife is totally unafraid of vehicles. They zoom past them day in and day out.Many animals especially deer love to use the open spaces next to roadsides in the early mornings and late evenings to feed. Birds of prey often use fence and utility poles beside the road as perches. Because of this vehicles can be another tool in your arsenal of photography tools. Just be sure to use it safely. That's important to be said because you are still using a motor vehicle and you don't want to endanger yourself or others in the pursuit of a wildlife image.

The first step is to prepare your camera in advance and place it securely in the car somewhere close to you. I keep mine in an open cooler on the floor of the passenger side of the car. I wouldn't recommend keeping it on the seat next to you as I have learned from a serious repair bill that telephoto lenses don't fare well in emergency stop situations. Ouch. Also the use of a bean bag or a window mount for your camera can be set up in advance. Window mounts are available commercially and can be a superb tool to keep your images sharp. Bean bags are also available though it is very easy to make one of your own by stuffing a fabric bag full of beans or rice. More on that one some other time.

When you see an animal on the side of the road first check to see if there is plenty of room for you to completely pull of to the side of the road with your vehicle off of the roadway. Second if it is dry or in summertime make sure there is no dry grass for your vehicle to set on fire. Give traffic behind you plenty of time to be aware of your intentions. Ease off the side of the road with no jerky braking and slowly come to a gentle stop.If you are in a good position turn your engine off to reduce vibration in your image. Hopefully you already have thought of having your window down. Shooting through windows doesn't usually yield very fine results. Slowness is often the key here so don't flail away with your camera and spook the animals off. Ease your camera up to the window place it on a bean bag or camera mount and compose and shoot.

Other people in the car can be both a God send and liability. If you have an agreeable mate they can drive and you can set up in the passenger seat with your camera ready to go. You have your own personal driver. This is especially helpful when doing the auto tours at many wildlife refuges where you are not allowed to get out of your vehicle. They just drive slowly and you tell them where and when you want to stop. Having a driver is very effective for hawks and other raptors. Many times they will immediately fly off when a vehicle comes to a stop. So if you prefocus on the bird before you come to a stop you can get some mighty fine images.

The liability of another person in the car is the shakes. Any motion in the car can result in unsharp images. My children have gotten to know that when Dad is taking a picture from the car they are to remain motionless. Pretty hard to do when they were much younger. which is why sometimes we just stopped and looked at the animas and dad didn't take any pictures. So keep in mind vehicle movement when shooting and that includes motion from the wind.

So if it is rainy or snowy or maybe you are just feeling cabin fever get out there and create some images.

God's light and love to all,


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