1. Know your camera before you go. Read the manual, practice on your pets and family and learn your gear so well that you don’t even have to think about all the buttons, bells and whistles. You want your mind free to think about how to make the best photo, not tied up trying to figure out menu settings.
2. Book early—the best viewing spots fill up quickly.
3. Shoot when the light is nice. Just before and after sunrise and sunset, the light is diffused and has a beautiful, glowing quality that makes for great pictures. The light is also diffused but usually not as warm on overcast days.
4. Take a tripod and a cable release or remote trigger to eliminate camera shake.
5. Be prepared. Dress appropriately—it can be very cold in March and early April. It’s hard to take good pictures when you’re shivering. Warm, sturdy shoes, good gloves and a hat are all a must. Dress in layers so you can stay comfortable as the temperature rises during the day.
7. Bring extra batteries and memory cards for your camera.
8. Though it’s tempting to zoom in as close as you can, experiment with a variety of focal lengths and compositions. Backgrounds are crucial, so pay attention to what’s going on around your subject. Move yourself and your camera to eliminate distractions in the picture.
9. Check out the back roads for viewing opportunities during the day—but be sure not to trespass on private property.
10. Have a sense of humor. If there’s one sure thing in nature photography, it’s that things will go wrong. If you can’t laugh about it, you’re in for a miserable experience.
11. Once you’re home, back up those photos and—if you don’t already—use a software program so you’ll be able to find your photos again a year from now.
Want to learn more? Check out Joel’s book, “Photographing Your Family.” It’s packed with photo tips that apply to people and animals alike. Visit www.joelsartore.com for details.