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Marion Larson

Marion Larson

Outreach Coordinator, MassWildlife

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Chipmunk

This past weekend, I had a new camera with me and was stalking chipmunks scurrying around on the stone walls that fronted my path. Chipmunks are quick but many times they freeze, hoping that you don’t see them. That’s when the shutter clicks!

A number of people send MassWildlife photos of wildlife or plants for identification to us at mass.wildlife@state.ma.us . In most cases, the images are good enough to identify the critter or plant in question, but occasionally there are problems. Here are some tips that will help create an image which can help us accurately identify your subject!

  1. Size Matters!—Include something familiar in size in your photo next or near to your subject, like a coin. We also appreciate image files less than 2MB in size! 
  2. Stay Focused—A blurry image makes accurate identification difficult. Prop your hands or the camera on something solid, or take a deep breath, let it out halfway and stop breathing for a moment while focusing the camera. That’s when you will have the least “shake”. A camera with image stabilization helps, but if you move, the image will still be fuzzy! 
  3. Get Close, but Not Too Close – It’s tempting to move close, but how close is too close? If the animal moves away as you approach, you are too close to their comfort zone. If you have a zoom, use it! Many times you can get an image that will work for identification of the subject without having to get close.
  4. Light and Shadow – It’s challenging to photograph a subject against the sky or other light background. (Hawk on wire by Westborough office). Try to move slowly and quietly in a direction that allows you to capture colors or markings instead of shadows (Same bird on the wire, a Red-tailed Hawk, but I moved to capture the bird with a leafy background and used the zoom!)

Do you have other tips for outdoor shutterbugs? Share them and we’ll all benefit from the advice!

If you have a favorite image of a bird, bug, flower or other outdoor scene or outdoor recreation activity, consider entering the contest. Submit a photo to the Massachusetts Wildlife Magazine Photo Contest.

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