We've all seen photos of exotic creatures from far away lands and wished we could take photos like that. Unless you have a large budget for travel we are often left asking where we can go to take wildlife photos. Contrary to popular belief, you don't have to travel around the world to find wildlife to photograph. Keep reading and I'll show you where the wild things REALLY are.
Taking an honest look at your surroundings is the first step in finding the wildlife around you. If you live in downtown New York you won't find a wild lion running around but you can find numerous bird species and scavengers such as raccoons. If you live in a desert area you probably won't find water buffalo but you probably will find snakes and small mammals such as prairie dogs. Remember that wildlife you consider commonplace is exotic to someone else. The hummingbird, so common in the Americas, are fascinating to people in other countries such as Japan.
Find out what is native to your area that you didn't already know about. Check with your state's Department of Natural Resources to see what wildlife is native to your area you may not have been aware of before. Also check with any local wildlife rescue organizations. These groups can offer insight into the behaviors and locations of native species.
Start in your own backyard. Go into your yard early in the morning when the sun is just rising and again in the evening at sunset. You'll see many more creatures than you realized were there before. Dragonflies in a variety of colors, butterflies, cicada, various birds, and assorted mammals will be present at these times of day more than any other. Invite wildlife to your yard. Consider making your yard inviting to the wildlife you want to photograph (be safe about this please - no taunting lions with raw meat). Place salt licks for creatures such as deer, bird feeders, fruit, and a brush pile for cover. Animals will happily accept the easy food. To check your progress set up a game camera or outdoor video camera so you can see what animals arrive and when without disturbing them. That way you can be in a blind before they arrive and get great photos.
Parks hold a lot of wildlife. Much more than domestic waterfowl makes its home at city parks with ponds. Turtles of many varieties, snakes, herons, egrets, small mammals, and migrating birds stop at city park ponds (usually on the less well-manicured edges). Check the migration paths and times for non-native birds you want to photograph, pick a park bench, and wait.
Zoos and wildlife parks offer opportunities to see animals that are exotic for your area. Reputable zoos and parks have made great strides in the care, environments, and health of the animals the exhibit. Please be sure to check your zoo's credentials before visiting. You can also get information on how photography friendly zoos are by reading the reader reviews here at About Photography.