Thursday, May 13, 2010

April 2009 - Coloradoan Xplore Column

Welcome to Wild Faces, Wild Places - Nature Photography. The desire to pursue nature photography was the result of colliding life interests. Born a "fresh air' junkie I've spent much of the past 30 years traveling and exploring diverse wilderness with a fly rod in one hand, a camera in the other. I've always been drawn to the outdoors favoring anything off the beaten path. A few years ago I made my first wintertime visit to Yellowstone National Park. During this trip my path crossed with the Druid Peak wolf pack. For five days I followed the Druids as they wandered their territory in Lamar Valley. Being witness to this intact eco-system was an instant catalyst for change in my life. Wildlife photography, in particular Rocky Mountain predators, has become my passion.

This will be a monthly column where I'll share approaches to exploring the natural world through the lens of a camera. I'll cover three content areas each month.
Road Trips - I'll share information on locations, seasonal timing, subject behavior and environmental characteristics of projects I'm currently working on.
Ready, fire, aim? - I'll dive into the mechanics or 'technical' side of photography. The emphasis will be how to take the mystery out of using your camera and how to optimize your results in the field. Much of what I'll cover will be around the use of SLR or DSLR cameras. However, point and shoot photographers won't be excluded.

Coming Attractions - Each month I'll provide a couple suggestions on subjects, locations or events in the local area that might be fun to explore with your camera
Nature photography can be as demanding or casual as you like. Our National Park system is one of my favorite destinations for the work I do. Great wildlife and landscape images are often available from roadside pull outs or short, self-guided nature trails. The fall elk rut in Rocky Mountain National Park is a great example. You can capture spectacular images of harem herds and bull elk from several roadside locations. For the more adventurous endless trails into the backcountry provide access to hidden landscapes and undisturbed wildlife.
How do I maximize my results and experience in the field? It starts with preparation. I want to know something about the behavioral and the environmental variables of my subjects. For instance I know in early summer elk will be split into nursery groups and bachelor herds. Cows will be together taking care of the new arrivals. The bulls will be together fattening up for the battles later in the year. I also know they will be more active early and late in the day. Heading out in the middle of the day will yield images of elk lounging around ruminating their breakfast. Probably not what I'm looking for. Even the most modest preparation will enhance your experience in nature, with or without your camera.

May is just around the corner and to me that means bear season. I'll be heading to Glacier and Yellowstone National Parks the beginning of May to photograph bears. I'll talk about that next month. I'll also start in on the choices photographers need to make before the shutter is pressed.
Ray Rafiti is a Fort Collins nature photographer. He's a field contributor for Nature Photographer Magazine and a member of North American Nature Photography Association. He can be reached at Visit his work at

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