• Rich Engelbrecht

Capturing Wildlife [with your camera]

Living, and playing here in the Finger Lakes region of New York State, with its hills, forests, farms, and small towns is a great place to be to get the wildlife shots that show the diversity of fauna that lives with us. I’m talking about with your camera.


Our region is home to a wide variety of wildlife, some live here year around, and some migrate south; just like us. Being able to capture an image of some of it is something I like to spend my retirement time doing and going out and getting a bit of your “wild” on, is why many of us live and play here.

You need to understand some of the “other” settings on your camera to get a nice sharp picture of a bald eagle in flight, or a humming bird at your feeder or, deer standing out in a field at sunset. To get these pictures you need to take your camera, and even your cell phone, off the automatic modes. You will want to be able to evaluate a scene and pick which mode may work better.

For example:

  • To capture an eagle in flight, we want to be able to “stop” the action. To do that try setting your camera to the “sport” or “running man” setting. You may want to consider “panning” or try tracking the bird in flight with your camera. Finally, take lots of pictures, as many as you can before it flies out of range. The more pictures you have, the better chances that you’ll get a spectacular shot


  • To capture birds on your feeder you will still want to use the sport mode for its fast shutter speed. You may want to pop open your flash and use it for these pictures. Flash will actually “stop” the motion even more as well as putting light on the birds in the shadows, to bring out the wonderful colors and expressions.

  • When you are trying to get that action shot of landing a big bass, or trout, once more, keep it on the sport mode. Adding polarizer filter will cut a lot of glare, and add definition as well as sparkle to the picture. If you don’t have polarizer filters for your camera, and most of us don’t, use a pair of non-prescription polarized sunglasses and hold one of the lens right on top of the camera lens.

  • For that wonderful farmer field with a herd of grazing deer at sunset picture, we want to take the setting to “landscape” or “mountains”. This tells the camera to slow down the shutter, to enable the camera to drink in all those wonderful colors and shapes, while still making sure everything from near to far is in focus. In this case, I would strongly recommend that you put your camera on a tripod. Don’t have a tripod? Try setting your camera on a rock or a fence post. I carry a big beanbag to use. You may want to also try to figure out how to use the timer to take the picture. Believe it or not, sometimes just pressing the shutter button moves your camera making the picture blurry.


For us that use a point-and-shoot camera here’s a tip to make all of your pictures better.

  • Press and hold the shutter button half-way down before taking the picture. This “wakes the camera up”, gets the auto-focus working, ready for you to compose your shot. Finish pressing all the way down to finish the capture. This process can take about the time of a heartbeat to function.

If you use a cell phone try this:

  • Bring up your camera app and compose your shot. Tap the screen where you want the shutter to focus and to tell the camera that is the spot in the picture you want to be well exposed.