The last time I went hiking on one of my favorite trails here in Southern California, I missed out on a really good photo opportunity. As I was driving out of the national forest at the end of the day, I spotted a Red-Tailed hawk perched in a nearby tree. The tree must’ve been just 30 feet or so away from my car.
So, I pulled over, and realized I had a problem: my camera and telephoto lens was in the trunk. That meant I’d have to get out of my car, open the trunk, get the camera, and finally try to fire off a few shots. Doing all that without scaring the hawk away would’ve been a miracle. I tried anyway, and sure enough, as soon as I got out of the car, the hawk took off. Oh well.
Although the hawks here in California usually don’t mind if I just roll down the window and fire off a few shots, they DO mind if I actually get out of the vehicle.
Looking back at that situation, I realize there’s a couple things I could’ve done.
First, I could’ve tried driving further up the road, out of sight of the hawk, pulled over, get my camera from the trunk, and then go back hoping the hawk was still there to photograph.
Or, what I think is the better solution for future travels is to keep your camera and telephoto lens on the front seat of your car. At least while you’re driving in or out of a park, and there’s enough light to actually photograph wildlife.
Although I do occasionally see wildlife when I’m hiking (I actually saw two bobcats recently, it was awesome!), most of the time I see bigger wildlife like hawks or deer is when I’m driving to or from a trailhead. Mostly because they don’t seem to be afraid of cars as much as they’re afraid of us 😉
Being prepared and having your camera right by your side will usually determine whether or not you get the photo. So, next time you’re driving in or out of a park, be sure to keep your camera and telephoto lens up front with you in your car!
If you enjoyed this article, and would like to read more, please signup for free updates by email or RSS.
About the Author: Steve Berardi is a naturalist, photographer, computer scientist, and founder of PhotoNaturalist. You can usually find him hiking in the beautiful mountains and deserts of Southern California.