There is arguably no more universal symbol of the wilderness and solitude than the loon. For many, myself included, a trip in the wilderness would be incomplete without seeing a loon or hearing it's haunting, mournful cry. Common Loons (Gavia immer) can be found living on productive lakes throughout the northern United States and Canada, including New York State's Adirondack Park. As you might expect, Loons don't like to be disturbed and prefer secluded, unpopulated areas in which to live and raise their young.
I've gone many years without getting a good photograph of a loon because I leave my encounters with them to chance. In this instance however, a pair of loons was relatively tolerant of me and allowed me to get close enough to get a decent photograph with the camera equipment that I had on-hand (an 80-200mm zoom and a 1.4x teleconverter). What a great experience!
As with any wildlife, watch for behavioral signs that the animal is distressed by your presence and either leave the area or retreat to watch from a distance that does not disturb them. Smaller species such as the loon will try to frighten you off in order to protect themselves or their young. Loons will do a "penguin dance" where they dance on top of the water in an attempt to scare intruders away. Loons have been known to do this until they are exhausted and die. Larger wildlife such as bear and moose pose obvious dangers to your health and well being (read: they can kill you!), so be sure to give them plenty of space. With that warning, here are a few more tips to help make your wildlife photography more successful.
Unless you happen to be in the right place at the right time, you're going to have to wait for wildlife to come to you. Professional wildlife photographers use blinds and natural cover to conceal themselves from animals who recognize the human form as danger. It may take some scouting to find where animals frequent, and then wait for them to come to you.
Have your camera ready (film loaded, turned on, lens attached, right exposure selected) so that when the opportunity arises for a great wildlife photo, you can get it.
A photograph of an animal exhibiting their normal behavior is more interesting. Animals will go about their normal behavior if they do not feel threatened ---- one of the reasons why pros use blinds. Also, many animals will become acclimated to human presence over time, allowing photographers the opportunity to create natural looking photos. Pros often leave their blinds afield for several days so animals get used to seeing them too.
The Eyes Have It
Just like in our photos of people, establishing eye contact often results in a great photo.
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