Photographing Endangered Species in Order to Save Them

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There are many animals in our planet that are considered endangered and can become extinct if we, the caretakers of the planet, don't do something to save them.

One of the ways that many of us can actually help is to raise the world's understanding of the plight faced by these creatures as well as raising the level of understanding for the need to so something about it before it is too late.

Photographing endangered species in order to save them is definitely a worthwhile project and if you can help by simply capturing their image then at least so you can say you are doing something about their plight.

An endangered animal is one which is considered to be near extinction due to declining numbers in the wild. Where you find man you will usually find an animal that could be threatened although this shouldn't be it is.

"An endangered species is a population of organisms which is facing a high risk of becoming extinct because it is either few in numbers, or threatened by changing environmental or predation parameters. The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has calculated the percentage of endangered species."Wikipedia

Making a concerted effort to raise awareness can take many forms, one of the most effective ones is to photograph these animals in the wild and showcase their beauty by sharing your images with the rest of the world.

Any undertaking of this magnitude obviously takes time, effort and money but it can be done. There are many organizations and governing bodies that will find such an activity.

If you were to embark upon this project one of the first things to do is to research the animals that will comprise your bulk of subjects. Accordingly once this is done, you should then try to get funding for the project, unless you can fund it yourself. Another way is to reach out across continents and contact others willing to assist you with it. They can photograph in their region while you photograph in yours.

However, the emphasis of of the project is to make an effort and photograph at least one main subject that comprises part of the endangered list as stated by the world organization entrusted with this. Even one subject at a time can do a lot , not only for the particular animal but for others facing similar situations. One person cannot do it alone but every little piece helps.

Aim to record the animal in its environment and to document as many of its characteristics and habits as possible. How they interact with each other, how they hunt, mate and feed as well as their preferred choice of terrain.

Like taking a portrait of a person, animal photography can be ruined by a bad background or intrusive elements like a tree branch, roads, fences, power lines, structures and other man-made objects. They can often interfere with how an audience views a photograph.

Carefully selecting shooting angles and with careful cropping you can help with these issues, however, a shallow depth of field (large aperture or f-stop) is your most powerful weapon in avoiding bad backgrounds and distracting elements.

Do not underestimate using your vehicle as cover. Many animals are used to cars and will not be too shy upon seeing one. Off course using a car to photograph endangered animals or any animals for that matter, may not be suitable in most situations so conducting a thorough research of the area as well as seeking the assistance of a guide may be necessary.

Just make sure to take plenty of images, from many angles and with many perspectives. Keep in mind that when photographing animals you need a lot of patience, they either do nothing for long periods of time or they are so active that getting a good shot is nearly impossible. They are not just going to freeze and pose for you, at least not most of the time, so keeping them inside the viewfinder will not be easy.

What you can do to better your odds of getting good images is to study the animal for a while and try to predict their next move. Birds for example will most always follow a definite flight path so, if you can figure this out, you can just wait until they fly past a certain point.

Using the manual mode is usually better as most auto focus mechanisms are too slow and can get confused by vegetation or even small details in the forefront. Animals, especially in the wild do not let you get very close to them so an essential part for photographing animals is a long lens preferably a zoom.

I normally take a lens of about 400mm and I attach a tele-converter which doubles the range to about 800mm. With long lenses the common rule is if hand holding the lens to prevent camera shake thus blurred pictures, is to use a shutter speed greater or about the same as the range of the lens. For example if using a lens rated at 400mm, then the shutter speed should not be less than 1/500. Try to avoid presenting the front lens element to the animal until you are ready to shoot. To most animals the front element looks like a big eye that is just staring at them.

Filling the frame is important in animal photography. Many of the animals we photograph are smaller than us. To see detail of the animal they need to be large in the frame. Think of using a good powerful flash even if shooting during times when there is plenty of light It will add highlights to shadowy area and may help in "freezing" the action. The drawback is that if your unit is noisy the animal may take off, leaving you with little time for repeat photos.

Another key piece of equipment to bring is your clothing. Choose ones that do make you stand out like a sore thumb. Try clothing that blends in with the environment or at least are muted in like pale greens, mauve, tan and so on.

Also avoid using heavy perfumes, body lotions and deodorants Try using ones that are odor or perfume free and avoid stalking the animals when the wind is downhill; going from your direction to them.

In the United Sates public lands, water, and wildlife face enormous threats from habitat loss, degradation, man made pollution, industrial pollution. Among these threats is the irresponsible energy development, excessive livestock grazing especially in and around fragile habitats, inefficient water diversions that dry up streams and block fish passages.

Holding the culprits accountable is paramount and photographing the animals as well as the results of destruction to their habitats will give lawmakers and the general public a better more concrete understanding of the issues as well as creating avenues for change. Ever heard the saying "a picture is worth a thousand words"? This project in its own little way, can help those creatures with whom we share the planet, come to the forefront of the public's opinion.

Besides photographing and sharing your endangered animal photographs there are other ways to help. You can join a national organization as part of a network of conservation, scientific, business and community organizations working to protect a region's disappearing wildlife and wild places.

By being an active participant in educational efforts, and outreach, you can work to protect endangered species and the environments where they live. You can specially be active in grassroots organizing and mobilizing of citizens to participate in political processes that encourage the political machine to take a more active stance in protecting our wildlife.



Every year that the endangered list is released the numbers of endangered and critically endangered animals grows.

"2012 release

The Red list of 2012 is out on 19 July 2012 at Rio +20 Earth Summit. Nearly 2000 species added, 4 species extinct, 2 rediscovered.

The IUCN assessed a total of 63,837 species which revealed 19,817 are threatened with extinction.

With 3,947 described as "critically endangered" and 5,766 as "endangered," Wikipedia

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When you add all of the little things done by individuals it tends to add up and eventually it catches the attention of those in power and with the authority to do something.

Protecting the environment and the animals in it is a responsibility that everyone of us must exercise if we are to secure the planet for coming generations.

It is not the same to look at a live wild creature than to see a representation of it, even if it is on a great photograph.

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© 2012 Luis E Gonzalez

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Comments 4 comments

Kris Heeter profile image

Kris Heeter 4 years ago from Indiana

Thanks for sharing this. With climate change and all the environmental issues, it's scary how many animals are endangered.


LuisEGonzalez profile image

LuisEGonzalez 4 years ago from Miami, Florida Author

Kris Heeter: Thank you


tamron profile image

tamron 4 years ago

We need to have some sort of population control. We can't even feed ourselves because of lack of jobs but yet people are careless and just keep having babies.

We need to stop spraying pesticides everywhere and making stuff with toxic materials and chemicals.

We need to stop building new structures and remodel old structures.

We need to quit moving into natural habitats. We need to do more to protect the ocean. I can go on and on!

We are killing ourselves and our resources.


LuisEGonzalez profile image

LuisEGonzalez 4 years ago from Miami, Florida Author

tamron: Thank you for your comment

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