Second Chance Wildlife Photos

by: Doug Alderson, Outdoor & Nature Expert

Yellow crowned night heron close-up on the Wacissa RiverIt happens a lot. You're hiking, boating, driving or kayaking with camera at the ready for that unique wildlife photo, and there it is-a bobcat, bear, or fox. You raise the camera to snap the photo, and the animal is gone. That fast. Only a glimpse. The thrill is there of seeing an elusive creature in the wild, but a photo would have been great, too, to share with friends and family.

But what if you had a second chance?

On a recent kayaking trip down the upper Wacissa River, I had several wildlife sightings. My camera and 100-400 millimeter telephoto lens was at the ready in my lap and several wading birds posed for me. As long as I made no sudden movements and didn't get too close, some of the birds seemed to tolerate my presence, along with a mother alligator with a young one. I even got within ten feet or so of a yellow-crowned night heron for a close-up portrait. That was special. But I wasn't ready for the doe and spotted fawn along the shore drinking from the river. When they spotted me approaching, they retreated into the shadows before I could snap the photo.

A similar thing happened when I spotted a family of otters along the shore. Readying my camera for a photo, they slipped into the water, and that was that. I continued downriver and snapped some more bird photos. On my return trip upriver, with the sun dipping low, I slowed as I passed the otter area. They were on the bank again-four sleek full grown otters! Through an opening in the branches, I was able to snap a few photos before they spotted me and slid into the water again. Bingo! This time, I had some photographic memories to share.

As I approached the spot where the two deer had been drinking I had no such luck. They were gone, but the otters had given me a second chance and I felt grateful for that. Good wildlife photos often involve patience, stealth, persistence, and just plain luck. Kayaking in the evening during the week was another factor since there were few people on the water, so pick and choose what times you feel might work best for wildlife shots. And be ready!

Doug Alderson. Outdoor & Nature Expert from Tallahassee, FL Author:

Doug Alderson

Outdoor & Nature Expert


Doug Alderson is the author of several books, including Waters Less Traveled: Exploring Florida's Big Bend Coast (University Press of Florida 2005), The Vision Keepers: Walking for Native Americans and the Earth (Quest Books 2007), New Dawn for the Kissimmee River: Orlando to Okeechobee by Kayak (University Press of Florida, 2009), Encounters with Florida's Endangered Wildlife (University Press of Florida, 2010), and his newest book, Wild Florida Waters: Exploring the Sunshine State by Kayak and Canoe (Earthways Press, 2011). Additionally, his articles and photographs have been featured in magazines such as Sea Kayaker, Coast and Kayak, Wildlife Conservation, American Forests, Sierra, Mother Earth News and Shaman's Drum. He has won several state and national awards for his books and magazine features. Doug also works as the paddling trails coordinator for the Florida Office of Greenways and Trails.

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