Why? by SJ

Sue profile_pp This Post by S. J. Brown

For this blog post I thought I would address a question I am asked quite often, Why? Why do I photograph wildlife? Why get up at 4 am and go out into the dark? Why trample around in the woods? Why not photograph people, buildings, flowers or serene landscapes?


Yes, those subjects would be a lot easier to photograph. When photographing a person you can arrange to meet them. You can reposition them easily with just a few words. A building will be there tomorrow and the next day so you can always return to the same location to get another angle. Once you find that perfect vantage point to record a tranquil scene or towering mountain you can return again and again until you get the lighting just the way you want it.


That just isn’t the case when photographing wildlife. You can’t ask them to move over just a few steps. Well you can, and I often do. However this request doesn’t always get the desired outcome. It does often get my subject to look in my direction. But it can have the opposite result as well. They could leave or challenge me. The same holds true for adjusting my position to get the desired shot.


I do return to locations I have successfully photographed critters at before. Sometimes this practice yields a bounty of subjects, other times I find myself all alone. I have a favorite spot in North Carolina. This area has a large black bear population along with deer, rabbits, turtles, and birds. So each visit is unique. Each animal is unique as well. Some like the camera, others shy away from it.

Black Bear

The challenge of finding not just subjects, but co operative subjects is a large part of wildlife photography. Combine this with lighting issues, weather, and the challenges of accessing some areas and this isn’t always easy. So I guess part of the reason I photograph wildlife is the challenge.

Prairie Dog

The main reason I do what I do is the encounters. Having my subjects allow me a glimpse into their world is what I strive for. To spend just a few seconds looking into the eyes of a wild creature is what drives me to do what I do. The social event of the year simply can’t compare to the rush I get when it’s just me, my subject and the camera. The camera is really just a tool to help me share my experiences. Not everyone gets a one on one audience with creatures large and small.


So now you know why I do what I do.

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Where is your favorite place to take photos? What part does wildlife play in your stories, or in your life? 

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23 thoughts on “Why? by SJ

  1. The challenge and the actual encounter with a wild critter… great reasons for becoming a wildlife photographer. After I finished reading your column, I found myself wondering what you were like as a child and teenager. Were you out in the woods or other wild areas enjoying glimpses of the wild animals’ world (but without a camera)?


    1. As a child and teenager I was a very shy timid person. I didn’t spend long hours outdoors. Most of my time as a child was spent in my suburban neighborhood. As a teenager I spent my time with friends. I think I grew into my love of nature.


  2. Wonderful post, SJ! I enjoy photographing wildlife as well — my years of living next to Yellowstone National Park reaped a bountiful harvest of opportunities to photograph bison, elk, swans, even a grizzly and wolf or two. You are so right: each creature is unique and wonderful. Thanks for sharing your talent and insights with us!


  3. I think your love of photography shines through each and every photograph, S.J. Every picture tells a story and I can totally understand why you love photography so much. How ingenious to put the love of wildlife photos you have taken and integrated them into your writing! I love photography too (I take pictures everywhere I go, but not of any specific thing, just whatever catches my eye. In real life I only have a dog (but only because our lease only allows one small pet). My books are full of wildlife, and tame animals as well – some of that is the most fun to research and write! Thank you for sharing your beautiful pictures!


    1. I tend to photograph what catches my eye as well. It’s just that wildlife tend to catch my eye. I think a photographers interest and love tends to show in their images.

      As for pets we have a very old dog and a few goldfish. Since I tend to be on the road quite a bit I think more pets wouldn’t be practical.


  4. Your reasons for doing what you do make perfect sense to me. Although I rarely photography wildlife, when the opportunity presents itself, I’m all over it. There is a wetlands area down the road from where I live and is a favorite place to capture images.

    Continued success, and I look forward to meeting more of our wild neighbors. Doris


  5. I found your blog most interesting . I did not know you had more than one book. Maybr sometime I could go with you in the woods of south Jersey where your roots are.


  6. Great photography, I love knowing the the thoughts you have while taking the photos. It must be an intimate moment when you see those animals eye to eye. Impressive work!


  7. Your photographs are the extension of you, S.J. I recently had to do a bit of wildlife research for my current work in progress and found it so easy to spend a whole afternoon finding out about the Scottish wildcat- a fairly rare species across Scotland nowadays with only a few favoured habitats. However, I’m writing of a time nearly 2000 years ago and had to write of a scene where they would have been more abundant.


    1. Researching wildlife can be very fascinating. I am always learning something new. If I were you I would want to see and photograph the animal I had researched. This is not always easy, especially when their number are few. Good luck with your scene.


  8. For you, photography appears to be a combination of art and adventure. I can see why you love it. I haven’t been around much wildlife: jack rabbits, swamp rabbits, rattlesnakes, unidentified snakes, birds, horned toads (when I was a child; now they’ve disappeared from the neighborhood), catfish, chameleons, deer, and one live rat the Siamese cat, bless her heart, brought into the house. That’s about it, I think.


    1. Kathy, that actually seems like a lot of critters to me. It is sad that so many critters have declined in numbers. I would not have been thrilled with the Siamese cat and the gift he/she brought to you. I really believe wild animals belong outside. Over the years I have had to return a few to the great outdoors.


      1. It was midnight, the cat was scuffling around on the sleeping porch, my mother opened the bedroom door hoping she would come inside and go to sleep, the scuffling continued in the bedroom, my mother turned on the light and saw what Kitty had brought in, my mother woke my father and said, “It ran behind the roll top desk, DO SOMETHING,” . . . Just an ordinary night in the Waller household.


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