I fell in love with photography the first time I watched an image come to life in a tray of developer. It seemed like magic to my young eyes. This happened when a slightly older neighborhood boy showed me his basic developing kit. I believe that was the beginning of what would years later become a very satisfying career.
Perhaps the best years of my career were the ones spent as a TV news photographer for WKBN. These were exciting assignments, and sometimes a little too exciting, but I enjoyed the thrill they provided. Still my ultimate goal was to photograph the outdoors that I loved so much. In fact my first published outdoor photos would illustrate an article on fishing. That was when I learned that a photographer needed to be a writer to get published. But there is more to the enjoyment of outdoor photography than getting published. Just taking a photo of an animal or a beautiful flower can be a reward in itself. You don’t need to go to Africa either. With a little ingenuity you can find outdoor opportunities in your own backyard.
Of course once you decide to photograph animals you will find that they can be a bit skittish about holding still for a human with a camera. So how then do you get photos of wildlife? That depends on just how serious you are about this wonderful hobby. If you just want to see what’s hanging out in your back yard a trail camera might be best for you. Trail cameras have become so popular with hunters that many are on sale for under fifty bucks, and they take some pretty incredible photos.
A trail camera can be strapped to a tree, or you might need to install a post of some sort. You can set the camera to insert a date and time on the photo, but this might be more useful to a hunter who needs to know if the deer slipping past their blind is there during legal hunting hours before he puts up his blind.
A blind can also be very useful to the hobbyist as it allows you to be a more active participant than with a trail camera. My first photography blind was just a tent that also served for summer camping trips. I set my camera on a tripod and myself on a folding camp chair. I still use the same arrangement, but my blind is decorated in a camo pattern. I doubt the camo pattern adds much if you put the blind out well before you intend to use if for photography or hunting. Just like trail cameras you will find these camo blinds on sale at very reasonable prices.
One friend of mine set up his own backyard safari, by staking off a 10-foot square of lawn. He rightly reasoned that an entire ecosystem existed in that ten foot square and he proved it with many interesting photos. This was in the era of film instead of digital and he needed to set up his Nikons with a series of close-up lenses and magnifying filters, but he produced works of art.
You might be surprised at what tiny lives exist in your backyard. Insects, just like large mammals, live out their lives in their environment and there are many dramas of life and death just waiting for your camera. Remember those special movies that documented the life of ants? These sagas require patience, but the results are worth the effort.
Your back yard offers photo opportunities with insects, flowers, mammals and birds, and that is literally from the ground up. You can even do this without leaving your home town and that will save you the expense of flying to Africa or Alaska. You also have the advantage of this being the age of digital photography, so you won’t spend a bundle of film on developing. Of course this old photographer still misses the aroma of developer. Maybe someone should make an air freshener that smells like Dektol or Microdol.