It’s a glamorous profession if you like adventure and are captivated by the lure of the wild, and the photographs you take are often exclusive and one of a kind. However, wildlife photography is fraught with danger, and even though this is part of the excitement, no picture is worth your life or your health. So if you’re keen on becoming a wildlife photographer, you must follow the “Safety first” rule, for if you don’t you could end up becoming fodder for angry or hungry animals or become a casualty of the wild side of nature. The basic rules that encompass wildlife safety aspects are:
  • Know the locale: Research the location where you’re going to shoot – the Amazon forests are a far cry from the African savannah. Know the terrain and the territory and be aware of the dangers and impediments you’re likely to face. If you’ve done your homework right, you minimize the dangers that you’re likely to face and are able to get your work done quickly.
  • Know the animal: Read up on the habits of the animal(s) you’re hoping to photograph. You need to understand their behavior, know what they do when they’re threatened, and be prepared for evasive and protective action in any eventuality. Familiarity with the habits of the animal is the best way to avoid attacks and know when to retreat.
  • Never get too close: It may be tempting to move closer for that fantastic shot you know is waiting in the wings; however, it’s not worth it when you have to pay with your life or your health. Use telephoto lenses when photographing animals that are dangerous and known to attack – the shots turn out just as good and you get to come back in one piece.
  • Avoid the young ones: An animal that is normally safe turns into a terror when it thinks you’re going to attack its young ones. So if you see cubs, beat a hasty retreat unless you want the mothers to come chasing after you. No matter how cute they look, never pick them up or approach them – they’re not cuddly toys but wild animals that could end up getting you killed.
  • Watch your step: The wild terrain is full of rocky paths and uneven ground; watch where you step and be careful about overhead branches as well. Lookout for snakes and protect yourself against leeches when journeying through rain forests. Be aware of swamps and rivers that could wash you away in flash floods; and watch out for gorges and canyons when hiking along narrow trails.
  • Be aware of the weather: The jungle is a bad place when it starts to rain; the desert is not a pleasant experience when the sandstorms blow in; and the rivers could spell death when a thunderstorm sets in. Be aware of the weather conditions and forecasts before venturing out with your gear.
  • Be properly attired: Wear the right clothes based on the climate conditions and terrain of the locale you’re shooting in. Prevent scratches from thorns and mosquito bites with full-sleeved clothing; wear high boots if you’re going into swamps and marshy land; and protect your skin and head from the harsh sun if you’re shooting in the desert.
  • Carry the right equipment: Besides your camera equipment, take along a compass, a map of the area and a GPS so you don’t get lost and are stranded in the middle of a jungle or a desert. Also carry enough water and food to tide you over in case of an emergency.
  • Let someone know where you are: Even if you’re travelling in a small group, tell someone where you’re going so people know where to look for you in the event you don’t return for any reason. It’s better to be safe now than sorry later.
  • Take a local guide with you: If you’re not familiar with the territory or if it’s too dangerous, it’s best to take along someone who knows the locale well. They are the best people to point out the likely haunts of the animal you’re hoping to photograph, and they know their way around so you’re unlikely to get lost or stranded without any sense of direction.
Wildlife photography is exciting no doubt, but no measure of thrills is equivalent to your life; so stay safe, and your photographs and you will live to see the light of the day.
Although biology was not my favorite subject at school, I still loved zoology – the study of the human body and animal science fascinated me. And even though I went on to major in the arts, the animal kingdom beckons me every now and then. This is why I collect facts and trivia that not many people know, and today, I’m going to share a few of them with you:
  • The giraffe reveals its secret to being tall and thin: Do you know why the giraffe is blessed with a lithe and lissome body? It’s so tall and skinny that any woman would give an eyetooth to look as elegant and slim. Well, maybe the secret is because this unique animal can survive for long periods of time without water. But all jokes aside, the giraffe really can go without water for longer than the camel, the animal we all know as the ship of the desert.
  • Drunken sex gets you pregnant even in the animal kingdom: How often have we heard of dumb blondes (or their brunette and redhead equivalents) being knocked up after a night of drunken sex? Well, apparently the bee and the flower are not exempt from this practice too – bees get drunk on orchid nectar, become disoriented and confused, and then drop the pollen on the flower to pollinate it.
  • Kangaroos could teach us a thing or two about efficient back up measures: We’ve all been in a position where we’ve rued not making adequate copies of our data and important information after we’ve lost or inadvertently destroyed the only copy we had. Maybe we should learn a thing or two from the kangaroo – this jumpy beast from Down Under keeps a backup of her embryo when she’s pregnant. The first baby is in the pouch and the embryo is on standby. And if the first joey (baby kangaroo) should die, the embryo steps in to take its place.
  • Meet the holy man of the animal kingdom: If you’ve ever seen a holy man meditating, you would have noticed that they stay motionless in one position for days together. Well, there’s an reptile that can do just the same; meet the tuatara from New Zealand – it has the lowest body temperature among reptiles, can sit motionless for days at a time, and can hold its breath for an hour or so. Besides, it can live for more than a 100 years and is born with a third eye in the middle of its head (which disappears as it grows older), so any wonder that it reminds you of Hindu rishis who were known to live long, have mythical third eyes, and be able to stop breathing for hours together?
  • Alcohol is a killer of killers: And finally, if you’re terrified of scorpions, there’s a way to get rid of them – just pour a small amount of alcohol on one and it goes crazy enough to sting itself to death. It’s sad no doubt, but rather the scorpion than you as the victim.