On the other side of the mirror – Information

The world of wildlife that surrounds us fascinates and delights. Close encounters with nature and watching the life of animals are a great way to rest after work, to escape the gray everyday life and bustle of the city. No wonder we want to keep these moments longer, more and more we take the camera with us and commemorate what we can see in photos. If you’re going for a walk in the woods or to the lake, it’s worth having it handy because you never know what you’ll encounter along the way.

Close encounters with nature are a great way to spend your free time – Magdalena Sarat / Fotoczaty

Of course, to take an interesting picture, we don’t necessarily have to make long trips to exotic places. Sometimes, to find an interesting topic, you just look around the house or go to the park. We know many wildlife photographers who take great shots of wild birds living in parks and green spaces in major cities. And it’s definitely not about tame crosswords or swans. The bird variety on the green islands of urbanized areas can surprise and provide many opportunities for interesting shots. It all depends on our imagination and creativity. Either way, it’s worth remembering that our immediate environment can be the perfect place to take your first steps in wildlife photography.

It's best to take your first steps in photographing the wildlife around youIt is best to take the first steps in photographing the nature in your immediate vicinity – Magdalena Sarat / Fotoczaty

However, the slightly more sophisticated way of photographing wildlife presents us with much greater challenges. It is not enough just to have a camera and be able to use it efficiently in the field. In this case, natural knowledge must come first. Without learning the biology and habits of the heroes of our pictures, it will be difficult to achieve success. Knowledge of the environment in which to search for individual species, knowledge of their behavior, daily or annual cycles certainly facilitate work and increase the chance of close encounters.

The increasing availability of photographic equipment and the need for contact with wildlife, which were mentioned in the beginning, make this field of photography quite popular today. However, it is worth remembering that one of the most important principles of a wildlife photographer is to do no harm. Of course, no matter how discreet we behave, our presence in the field is always some kind of interference. It is important that it is as small as possible and that nature will reward you with many opportunities for unforgettable frames and observations.

Blending in gives you the chance to observe and photograph the natural behavior of wildlifeBlending in with the environment gives a chance to observe and photograph the natural behavior of wildlife – Magdalena Sarat / Fotoczaty

One of the best methods for minimally invasive observation of an animal’s life is to become invisible. The perfect invisibility cap in this case is good camouflage that blends in with the environment. And, of course, the question arises again where to put them to get a good shot. In this situation it is useful to know the habits of individual species and observations of the area prior to the session. It is also worth remembering that we are still dealing with wild nature. Wild and not entirely predictable.

Good masking increases the chance of interesting shotsGood masking increases the chance of interesting shots – Łukasz Łukasik / Fotoczaty

More than once we have found a good place, for example a swimming pool, where birds regularly came to the feeding place every day. On the edge of the backwaters, we set up a shelter – a small, well-masked photo tent, which was hidden from the surroundings under the cover of the bushes. The next two days of binocular observation confirmed the correct choice – before hiding, there was a swarm of winged company.

The big day has finally arrived. An hour before sunrise, in complete darkness, we hid in our invisibility caps, patiently waiting for what morning would bring. After several hours of waiting within range of the lens, except for one heron, who was wading on the edge of the reeds, nothing appeared at all. This morning the birds chose a completely different part of the pool for the cafeteria. Well – it happens. Without giving up, we went back to our shelter the next morning. This time, before sunrise, the first guests began to arrive. And when the sun came out from beyond the horizon and painted the world with pastels, it was hard to decide which direction to point the lens.

To wait for the right moment, you often have to be patientTo wait for the right moment often requires a lot of patience – Łukasz Łukasik / Fotoczaty

One thing is certain: nature photography offers a whole range of attractions. From crawling in the grass wet with dew, to wading in swamps and swamps, to sheltering for hours on cold winter mornings. Every species we want to encounter is a challenge. And the final effect is often determined by a windfall.

Photographing the black grouse in a leak area took many hours in hidingTo photograph the grouse in the lek area, you had to hide for many hours – Łukasz Łukasik / Fotoczaty

More than once, after entering the shelter, we have not yet managed to remove the equipment from the backpacks, and our main character has already appeared in the expected place. It is also common for long hours of patient waiting to have no effect. Or the peak of our dreams comes for a few seconds and then disappears. In such a situation, reflexes and mindfulness determine success.

In the “ghost hunting” category, the hamster turned out to be the clear leader. Once we dreamed of meeting this nice creature. So there was no other option but to go to the regions where it occurs. A friend of the wildlife photographer who had been photographing hamsters in his area for years came to the rescue. In the beginning, however, he made a reservation that it wouldn’t be easy and you would have to be patient.

The next two afternoons were covered in masking nets, with eyeballs taped to the camera’s viewfinders, so we lay patiently motionless before the den from which the pinnacle of our dreams would peek out of his mustache mouth. No effect. It wasn’t until the third day, just before sunset, that a moving nose, black eye beads, and then the rest of the hamster came out of the mink. He looked around alertly, sniffed, then trotted in a direction only he knew. However, for those few lucky moments, it was worth it to be patient on the post.

The European hamster is one of the most difficult photographic challenges.  It often happens that the only thing we look at for hours is a picturesque place where it should appearThe European hamster is one of the most difficult photographic challenges. It often happens that the only thing we look at for many hours is a picturesque place where he should appear – Magdalena Sarat / Fotoczaty

Sometimes it also happens that there are bonuses and surprises in nature photography. Morning over the backwaters. From dawn, white and gray herons posed beautifully, wading and hunting just before hiding. At one point, the entire company fell apart and spread across the area. The sun was already quite high, but still gave fairly good light, so it was worth the wait. Then again, it might have been a good time to leave the post undetected and come back to sleep in for a long night. During such deliberations, the reeds opened just in front of the shelter and the deer emerged with its young. Wading in the shallows, they passed in front of the lens and disappeared like ghosts among the greenery on the other side of the pool. Those few minutes of contemplating what to do with such a beautifully started morning, decided on a meeting that might not have happened when leaving the shelter early.

In nature photography you often need the proverbial windfallIn nature photography you often need the proverbial windfall – Łukasz Łukasik / Fotoczaty

Yet another category is photographing birds during their passages. Especially species that migrate to stop on the coasts of the Baltic Sea and fill the energy shortages on coastal beaches. Often these are species that nest in the far north and are not much afraid of people. To photograph them it is not necessary to build skins or to mask too much. Often it is enough to lie patiently and motionless on the shore to be literally surrounded by intensively foraging dandelions, sperm and stone limbs. Such a picture is quite a pleasant escape wading in the mud and sitting for hours in a cramped tent.

Sometimes it is enough to lie down on the edge of the beach and wait patientlySometimes it’s enough to lie on the edge of the beach and wait patiently – Łukasz Łukasik / Fotoczaty
The variable dungeon (Calidris alpina) - one of the heroes of the shorebird flying byVariable runner (Calidris alpina) – one of the heroes of coastal bird flight – Magdalena Sarat / Fotoczaty

One thing is certain. It is the diversity of our heroes, their unpredictability and the effort required to reach the goal that makes us want to take on new challenges.

Nature photography on the other side of the mirrorAgnieszka Zach / Photos
Nature photography on the other side of the mirrorMagdalena Sarat / Fotoczaty

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