Iowa is a great place to go if you want to enjoy the great outdoors, particularly if you’re a keen photographer. The marvellous scenery makes a stunning backdrop for your pictures and the abundant and diverse wildlife will ensure you are never without inspiration.
Wildlife photography workshops
Why not arrange your trip to Iowa’s great outdoors with a photography workshop to help hone your skills? Veteran photographers and workshop instructors at Neal Smith’s Wildlife Refuge Digital Photography Workshop near Des Moines, Iowa can help you take your photography to the next level. The workshop includes both classroom time and field work and there’s lots of classroom instruction too. The field sessions take place in the 5,600 acre wildlife reserve where you’ll see bison, elk and a variety of backdrops against which to frame your subjects.
For further information about the workshops and to book, call John Gregor on (218) 830-0767 or follow the links through Bryan Hansel’s website.
Once you’ve learned the basics, you’ll want to get out and about by yourself to practice your new skills.
Bald Eagles: A great location where you can study and photograph the iconic Bald Eagle can be found at the Upper Mississippi River in Iowa. The Bald Eagles migrate here from the northern US and Canada every winter and congregate near to the locks and dams where the water is not frozen so they can fish.
The best spot for observation of these impressive birds is Lock and Dam 14, near Le Clair, Iowa where there’s a concrete walkway which is an ideal place to set up your photographic kit and wait for the perfect shot. The GPS co-ordinates for the Dam 14 parking area are: 41.574169, -90.404863.
White Pelicans: Between late March and August, hundreds of white pelicans migrate to Iowa to congregate on the Mississippi River where they are joined by egrets, great blue herons and cormorants.
A great location to see the birds is the Lock and Dam 14 (directions as above).
Patience is a virtue
Wild animals are by nature wild! They don’t usually oblige by sitting still and posing for you. Spend time researching before your trip to find out what animals you can expect to see in the location you’re going to; check out their habits so that you know when they’re most active. Many species are easier to spot at dawn or dusk, others are nocturnal and during the autumn rutting season many species of deer and so preoccupied with mating that you can get some great shots without alarming them.
The photographers ‘golden hour’ is definitely dawn and dusk. Lots of creatures like to feed at this time nocturnal species will be venturing out as dusk too when the light is especially beautiful and atmospheric.
Up close and personal
Remember that wild creatures are timid and won’t tolerate you getting too close. In fact, some species can be extremely dangerous if you invade their personal space. For this reason, a good quality telephoto lens is a great piece of kit that’s well-worth investing in. With this tool you can zoom right in on the action without disturbing your subjects although you may have to lie prone amid the undergrowth in order to handle a long telephoto lens, depending upon your target.
If you can get really close to your subject without putting either party at risk, your main focal point should be the eyes. You might have to manually adjust your AF points to get that really sharp definition of the eyes for your photograph. This is a professional technique which will give your photos that extra touch that would be lacking in an average holiday snap.
If you’re planning a photographic field trip during the autumn months to capture to wonderful colours, be careful if you’re heading to the wooded areas. Check with local rangers to establish where hunters are likely to be before you set off.
Respect the animals you are planning to photograph. Many do not take kindly to intrusion and can become aggressive if you get too close, especially if they have youngsters to protect. Elk stags for example can be extremely dangerous during the rutting season, so play it safe and use your telephoto lens.
Wildlife photography is a really rewarding hobby, especially in countryside as captivating as that of Iowa. Combine your annual vacation with a photography workshop to get the very best out of your visit to this stunning state.