Photography 101: Do Your Homework

Photography 101: Do Your Homework

I can not stress enough the importance of planning your trips and studying the area that you plan to visit. It doesn’t matter if your shoot relates to nature and landscape photography or a on-location outdoor portrait sitting. Doing your homework doesn’t just help you define your photographs, it can also keep you safe if you are approached by the local wildlife or with potential natural poisons in the habitat. Knowing what animals are in the area during that season, how they react to people and if it is hunting season could help save your life. The same goes for what poisonous plants of the area look like; there is nothing worse than a lot of discomfort from encountering Poison Ivy, Poison Oak, or Sumac.

Here is a perfect example of a photographer not doing his homework before going out on his shoot. If this photographer had taken the time to read up on the local wildlife, the photographer would have seen Elk on the list. He would have learned about the Elk’s habits and aggressiveness; he would not have been in this situation for long with the proper knowledge. This photographer came very close to having his lungs punctured by the Elk’s antlers all because the photographer lowered his head. A lot of animals find this gesture as a sign of submissiveness. However, Elk use their heads to defend themselves. The Elk took the photographer’s actions as a threat and attacked the photographer. The photographer is alive, he walked away with bruising and cuts but the Elk had to be put down.

Elk vs. Photographer | Great Smoky Mountains National Park

The second example is of a photographer in a travel party that encountered a family of gorillas; one of which is a Silver Back Gorilla. This photographer had done his homework and learned that looking the Gorilla in the eyes is a sign of aggression and dominance. Tucking the head tells the Silver Back that you are not aggressive or a threat to its family; reducing the likelihood of an attack significantly.

Jonathan Rossouw’s Gorilla Encounter in Uganda