For the past several months I’ve been inspired by a wildlife photographer named Doug Gardner who is host of a television series called Wild Photo Adventures. The show airs on the Natural History Channel but past episodes can be viewed on YouTube.
Gardner travels across the country and generally hooks up with a local guide and together they set out in search of big game such as grizzly bears in Alaska or more delicate subjects like exotic wild flowers hiding in the Great Smoky Mountains. The show is both instructional and captivating and always ends with Gardner’s signature phrase: “it’s not just about the photograph, it’s about the outdoor experience”. You can watch an episode where Gardner photographs moose in the north woods of Maine here: Wild Photo Adventures
Whether it’s traipsing through a murky, bug infested swamp searching for alligators or crawling through the snow in 30 below temperature stalking wolves in Yellowstone National Park, this guy definitely has the right stuff and attitude for success in his profession. In fact, he’s been referred to as the “Navy Seal” of wildlife photographers for his stealth movements tracking and hiding from his subjects – all accomplished without violating his cardinal rule: don’t distress the animal.
Doug Gardner as shown on his website
I’ve learned quite a bit from watching his productions. He offers both technical advice about photography as well as practical information regarding animal behavior and dealing with Mother Nature. He’s passionate about protecting the environment and serves as a great ambassador for this cause.
Gardner knows that not everyone can simply hop on a plane for a photography trek into the remote regions of Alaska one week, then head to the Everglades for a gator expedition the next, so he encourages people to seek out the wildlife in their own area – even if it’s just in their back yard. He stresses that practicing close to home (the rudimentary wax on/wax off phase) will better prepare photographers should they ever encounter that National Geographic moment in an iconic location.
Dogs on Pine Point Beach sometimes qualify as “wildlife”
Fortunately, I live in a place with a fair amount of bird life nearby so I’ve been practicing a lot lately. This also suits my current situation of caring for my wife and our dog as they both recover from recent surgeries. I am happy to report that the two of them are gaining strength and mobility with each passing day – to the point where I can wander away from home for short periods and they can fend for themselves.
I’m fine with that right now. At last count there are about 50,000 grizzlies still residing in Alaska so I don’t need to book my flight just yet.