Getting close to birds and animals is probably the toughest part of getting good wildlife shots. Most animals see us as predators and so at the first sign of a human being, they're gone.
But most animals, interestingly enough, don't see automobiles as a threat and so you can get much closer to animals if you shoot from inside your car. Fortunatley too, many wildlife sanctuaries have wildlife drives that traverse wildlife areas. The photo here, for example, was shot on the Blackpoint Drive at the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge in Titusville, Florida. Using a 400mm lens (on a Nikon body) I was able to approach within about 20 feet of this egret hunting. More importantly I was able to photograph the bird for more than an hour from the front seat of my car.
The key to using your car as I blind is to find an active area and then shut the car off and settle in while the wildlife comes to you. The longer your car sits and the less movement there is near the windows, the more comfortable the birds or animals will become. I often mount my camera in a rear window and then when I get to likely location, I sit still for a few minutes, then quietly get into the back seat. Shore birds like egrets and herons tend to return over and over to a small feeding area (what might look like a small tidal puddle to you or I) where they can confine their food. If you park next to one of these areas you'll find the birds returning there over and over again.
In tomorrow's entry I'll tell you about the world's best "window pod"--a camera support designed specifically for photographing birds and wildlife from inside your car. It's one of the best photo products I've ever owned.
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