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Perfect Light

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Published on: Dec. 2, 1995

Last revision: Oct. 20, 2010

it's from a vehicle. A vehicle is a roving blind, especially when you're in areas where animals are used to cars. The more places you investigate, the greater the diversity in your photos.

Increase your odds. Go where there are "cooperative" subjects - a wildlife refuge, for instance, where deer haven't been hunted. They're more likely to stay within camera range, since they coexist with a parade of people and vehicles. (But on the way to a wildlife area, stay alert for the unexpected egret in a roadside ditch.)

Be ready. Have your camera loaded before you set out for your shoot, so you won't be fumbling with film while keeping one eye on a double crested cormorant that flies just as you close the camera back. And when you're about to stalk an animal, be sure you're not at the end of a roll.

Show the animal clearly. A successful photo presents a "definitive" view of a wildlife subject. The best shots will be close-ups or include some aspect of habitat, food source, movement or behavior.

Invest the time. Go out numerous times and don't give up. Your patience will pay off. Invest time in gaining familiarity with an area and learning what lives or visits there. Wildlife will be more abundant at some times than others, depending on season, populations of species, availability of food, migrations and other factors. Add to your biological knowledge so you know the habits of wildlife subjects. That helps you set priorities in planning a day of shooting.

For Rathert, such a day in late October begins before sunrise, when he slowly cruises the roads of Squaw Creek National Wildlife Refuge. On this trip a car will serve as his roving blind. Like other wetland areas, the refuge attracts a variety of wildlife. Rathert calls it "inherently rich."

Deer, his first priority, are likely to be on the move at this hour. The eastern horizon is faintly golden through roadside trees, and delicate skiffs of fog drift over the marshy land. "Fog is makeup for the landscape," he observes.

His 35mm single lens reflex camera is ready, equipped with a 300mm lens. He can swivel the camera on a ball head, which is attached by a clamp to the lowered window glass. He also has the option of rapidly switching to a second camera with a 500mm lens by using a quick release adaptor. When he adds a 1.4 teleconverter,

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