Edgy advice no one wants

I am astounded that aspiring wildlife photographers aren’t lining up to acquire my tried-and-true methods for making better wild critter images. It’s almost like they suspect I don’t follow my own advice! Wherever do they get this idea?

This lack of interest in no way dampens my enthusiasm to share them anyway. My only caution is not to use them all at once!

1. Rise with the sandhill cranes

Every great wildlife photographer knows the best time to find wild creatures is just after sunrise. That means stumbling out of bed early, leaving while it’s dark and shivering in cold, wet grass or snow – all part of the price you pay for getting photos almost as good as the next guy.

I take this to heart and get an early jump on sunset since no one can really tell the difference in a photo. This doesn’t interrupt my sleep and it turns out there are two golden hours every day. I like to think of myself as an early rising night owl.

2. Get wet and dirty as a hippo

You have to go where the action is! There are sacrifices to be made for getting good shots and that means getting down in the muck for a critical eye-level perspective. No mud – no photo.


Hawks have eight times better eyesight than humans so sneaking up on them is a bit tricky.

It turns out I don’t particularly like being wet or filthy. Yet despite this natural bias, you wouldn’t believe how dirty my shoes get and I think I even got my pants smudged a few times. I may not be physically lying in the mud (that ground seems a lot further away than it used to be) but some sacrifices must have been made.

3. Train your eagle eyes

This is really good stuff so you might want to highlight it. You can’t shoot what you can’t see. The trick is focus (camera focus helps too). You need to be able to identify a lot of different shapes. Some of them might turn out to be hawks!

Of course when references to bats may be more appropriate for my eyesight, I do what I can. Thankfully my thick glasses help me detect motion so I can fire away in the general direction of activity. It’s all about the camera anyway.

4. Sneak around like a chameleon

If you want to make good photos, you need to get up close and personal with wildlife. This means head-to-toe camo, hiding in blinds and becoming invisible in nature.

I have learned to keep my camo hat in the truck though it’s rarely used. I am surprised how often I can wander around in my four-wheel blind and the animals don’t seem to care. The alternative is trying to sneak up on a hawk with eight times better eyesight than humans. I mean who’s kidding whom?

5. Study behaviour like a predatory fox

By carefully watching creatures over the years, you can develop special powers to predict their behaviour. We are all creatures of habit at our core.


Snowy owls can stand forever on a post like it’s a perfectly normal thing to do. Good photographers can sit and watch them forever like it’s a perfectly normal thing to do.

After years of studying hawks I now recognize some patterns. I know they will fly off exactly 0.8 seconds after I look down to adjust my camera and ease the searing pain from a shoulder cramp. As for outsmarting the creatures, I try to keep that to a minimum. I’m not sure I want to lose a battle of wits to a creature with less than 5% of my IQ.

6. Wait like a snowy owl

The best wildlife photographers are like snowy owls. That means you need to keep sitting out there for a day, or a week or a month in all kinds of weather – just waiting for the magic moment. What a life! Legendary photogs’ have incredible stories of their long waits and wear them like badges of honour. Each retelling seems even more incredible.

That all works great unless you have my boredom gene. I need to be careful not to use up all my patience in one spot, especially a blind. It’s hot, boring and, speaking from vast experience of waiting minutes in one place, the animals never come to me. There might be a message buried in there somewhere.

7. Act crazy like a fox

The key to winning this wildlife search is sharpening your unpredictability skills. It starts with using confusing expressions such as crazy like a fox that no one really understands.

This is a special talent I have honed over the years. I have fine-tuned the art of not knowing what I’m doing or where I’m going. My theory is that wildlife doesn’t have a clue where to hide when I could show up anywhere. I’ll let you know how it works when I find something.

My conclusion? There are days I am astounded that I have managed to get any photos at all!


Cute? Maybe a little. If I had followed any of my seven steps maybe it would have been better!

Latest Comments

  1. Birder's Journey says:

    Super advice on all counts 😀 Love your posts and your creative ideas 😉 The Sandhill Crane is an especially awesome shot!


  2. dda53 says:

    Great story and photos. It certainly gets me thinking about some of my adventures. Hope you have a banner year!


  3. caleephotography says:

    LOL!! Hilarious post, Lyle, thanks for the laugh 😀


  4. Steve Gingold says:

    I follow your advice, but usually I am stalking wild flowers. 🙂


  5. Lavinia Ross says:

    Stunning photos as always, Lyle! That snowy owl photo is my favorite in this set.


  6. Outlier Babe says:

    Best post of yours to-date, in my opinion. Really well-crafted humor, and of course, as always, your photos are amazing.


  7. Dick Trew says:

    I’ve given this thing about mentoring more than a passing thought. It’s just wrong that young people don’t line up to garner the wisdom of one’s years… It’s evident that you have so much to share and could easily take years off the learning curve for aspiring photographers. My suspicions are that it’s a bit like parenting adult children. They, above all others, should truly know our strengths and wish to gather from those insights we might share. When I consider my own sons, I’m brought back to a harsher reality–they didn’t really see me doing that with my elders–what they saw me do was insist on my own way, even photographically. Hmm… I don’t think I like where this is going–it looks like I have no sage advice to share about the process, though I’m years beyond your tender age, Lyle. Oh, that reminds me, I’m sitting by the computer but haven’t had you pose any questions about my photography or anything of the sort. I wonder if there’s a message in it? Surely not. It’s probably just that you haven’t yet formulated the question and surely don’t wish to embarrass anyone with an ill-formed question that might lead to a less-than-ideal exchange. Maybe I should ask my sons about how to get the dialogue going–naw, that might make it look like I don’t already know what I do and then they wouldn’t have any reason to come to the artesian well of information, knowledge, wisdom, and memories peppered with illustrative anecdotes I have to offer. I think I’ll just wait by the computer for the conversation to start at the right moment. Until then…

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Joe says:

    Great post. Im not a photographer, but really appreciated the insights and the humour. Your blog caught my attention more for the creative writing style than the photos, though the images area amazing. The tendency for self deprecation as a source of humour is something we have in common. An inspiring post in its simplicity that gave me some ideas for my own blog. Thanks.


    • Lyle Krahn says:

      I’m glad you enjoyed the post and it prompted some ideas. I’m often amused at what triggers my ideas when I can figure it out. The writing has been enjoyable and I’m glad to hear it found another audience.


  9. Mike Powell says:

    I laughed my way through your commentary on the seven steps, thinking of all the times that I have heard advice about how cold, wet, bored, sleep-deprived and camouflaged I need to be to get good wildlife shots and maybe it’s true some of the time. There seems to be more than a healthy dose of a Puritan work ethic in this approach that requires suffering to achieve success. Now I have some experience being cold, wet, bored, sleep-deprived, and camouflaged, having spent 20 years in the Army. That approach is best for the young folks. Your modifications seem more appropriate for those of us of a “certain age,” with endless walking replaced by endless driving from your movable shooting blind and taking advantage of the second golden hour (though it may be a problem for seniors who want to take advantage of the early-bird dining discounts). Your awesome photos show that your approach works incredibly well for you. I continue to be amazed at the shots that you are able to get of quite a variety of species, both local to your area and in the wilder locales that you visit.


    • Lyle Krahn says:

      I always enjoy your long responses. The Puritan work ethic is exactly right and I would have included it in my post if I had thot of it. I may have to include that if version 2.0 sees the light of day. The early dining discount made me chuckle.

      And I appreciate the reminder to be thankful for the wonderful opportunities I have had with so many species travelling around two provinces. Just like with your local park, we need to take the opportunities that we have.


  10. sheketechad says:

    Always impressive, and still such a pleasure to find an excellent photographer that doesn’t take the whole schbang too seriously 🙂 The snowy is glorious!


    • Lyle Krahn says:

      Hey thanks so much. I generally find photography to be a humbling experience given the few times it all comes together. Glad you like that snowy – there’s something about the eye and that pose that intrigues me.

      Liked by 1 person

  11. donna213 says:

    I was laughing at each bit of your wisdom. You are too funny. I am terrible at #3. I often think I see one bird and it is totally something else. I even thought I saw a bird in the marsh and it was just a well positioned stick. I have embarrassed myself many times with a group of bird watchers. For all your humor, you do get really great shots of many different animals and you must have patience even though saying otherwise. I really like that hawk photo. Tell me he didn’t do that flyby just for you!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Lyle Krahn says:

      I’m happy to hear the humour landed! The more I learn about how our eyes work, the less it seems like actually seeing – a lot of it is recognizing shapes and having our minds fill in the rest. I have noticed that I tend to look for familiar shapes and movement and end up finding more wildlife when I’m focused. I also get fooled by the same sticks in the pond every time I drive by some places! You are not alone in that.

      As for patience, I really am bad at it but I’m slowly getting better. I have learned to spend the hours looking without success but it drives me a bit crazy to sit in a spot with no wildlife and just wait.

      That hawk absolutely did the flyby just for me – even flying into the sun! That’s the only way I would get him.


  12. My Heartsong says:

    Love the photos here especially the colouring in the grizzly.I usually don’t have the patience but it does pay to wait-the difference between getting the shot or not, or even getting a better shot.although in the case of the bear might be better to retreat.


    • Lyle Krahn says:

      That little grizzly was a special one. It was a pleasant surprise to find. Patience is the theory though the rewards are so inconsistent that I don’t feel encouraged all the time. I suppose the other side of patience is continuing on with the journey of looking for photos we enjoy. Always appreciate the comments.


  13. pronghornwildlife2 says:

    More great images Lyle, we actually do some of that stuff and as you demonstrate it sometimes works! A smile makes the dark, cold, mud and lack of cooperation from the subject a little easier to bear. Thanks.


    • Lyle Krahn says:

      I’m always partial to make myself smile and it’s always better with company. I appreciate you coming along for the ride – at least it’s nice to know what the right approach is even if we don’t follow it all the time. And thanks for sneaking in that bear on a cold day!!


  14. Anonymous says:

    So it sounds like a “don’t do as I do,but do as I say” kind of advice! Either way you are doing something right! Always enjoy your pictures!


    • Gary Skelton says:

      Ooops forgot to “sign” my name on the last comment! Keep up the great work Lyle,looking forward to what you find in 2015!


      • Lyle Krahn says:

        Whether I have a good plan or not, I sure like it when it all comes together with a photo I can enjoy. Glad you enjoy the photos. I hope you get great things in 2015 as well and enjoy the photography.


  15. Seenorway says:

    Your pictures are astounding, Lyle, but I’ve long given up trying to communicate anything serious on the net.
    Perhaps I shouldn’t say this, but asking serious questions or offerings of sound advise goes mostly unanswered. It’s a pity, ’cause there is a large volume of experiences to be had and a lot of things to learn on the net. It just don’t work that way. And having blogged for more than 10 years, I still cannot tell you why!

    There’s app. 5 million Americans with a Norwegian heritage and the way we visit/photograph/report from different places in the ‘homeland’, you’d think there would be requests or questions – at least once in a while? We’ve been at it for two years now, having published more than 3500 pictures, but so far there have been no requests nor questions from our American/Canadian vistors! It looks like we might as well find something else to do? Like photographing different stones perhaps . . .?
    Or ‘cloud shapes’?


    • Lyle Krahn says:

      I’m glad you enjoy the photos.

      You have obviously been at this whole blogging thing for a lot longer than I but I think I understand some of what you are saying. In addition to the sense of accomplishment and joys of blogging, there is a lot of frustration and some low moments. Whenever, I have expressed the latter in a post, I have been surprised at how strongly others identified. It is a strange journey. I wish you all the best as you work through this phase.


      • Seenorway says:

        Oh yes, I’ve had my moments,,highs and lows 🙂
        These days I’m contemplating a new camera, but I can’t seem to make up my mind between the Olympus
        OM D M-1 or the brand new Samsung NX-1?

        I’m kind of tired carrying 4 lbs around my neck for hours on end, but then the sneaking thought ‘why’ takes hold. There ought to be somewhat better response when WP boasts hundreds of millions of users?

        I remember working a news net some 10 years ago. They boasted 30 000 registered users, but in the long run we found it to be less than 1800!
        After that I don’t much believe in figures any more 🙂


        • Lyle Krahn says:

          I can certainly understand your reluctance to believe numbers. When I hear of people paid to write phoney reviews or buy followers, it’s good to know there are some real people out there.


          • Seenorway says:

            There is a case pending in Norwegian newspapers these days regarding young bloggers that have earned millions on their blogging – up to now!
            Today they have confessed to writing comments on their own blog using fictive names, manipulating photos aso.
            I guess it’s gonna do something to their future credibility? (Serves them right)


  16. Kathryn Braithwaite says:

    Wonderful,stunning photos


  17. Susan Portnoy says:

    You are hilarious… Great post. 🙂


  18. anotherday2paradise says:

    Fantastic photos, Lyle. The snowy owl is beautiful.. 🙂 You must have endless patience to get such amazing shots.


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