I know a lot of people who just like to photograph wildlife, and some who only like to photograph birds. And they often have beautiful portfolios of portraits and action. Personally, I can’t do that. I get bored too easily and I need to find inspiration from lots of different sources to keep things fresh and fun for me.

One of the simplest ways is to shoot wildlife like a landscape shooter. I will do a longer post on this later, but here is a good example of that from a few weeks ago.  I work with Texas Audubon to photograph and document their Texas sites (all of which are awesome, btw) and was working in Mitchell Lake, outside San Antonio.  It has amazing populations of waterfowl, pelicans and shorebirds, like these stilts.

The wildlife photographer’s first impulse might be to photograph just the stilts, getting as close as possible for a tight portrait, or working them for some sort of action.  I did that a bit and ended up with this.

Black-necked Stilts in PondNot a bad shot, but not really a portrait and not much in the way of action.  It needed something extra. I looked around nearby and saw this little tree in the water.

Black-necked Stilts in Pond

Very pretty in and of itself, with a simple, beautiful shape.

So, I have a nice little tree and nice stilts working nearby. . . . What happens if I combine the two, shooting the entire image as a landscape and using the tree and birds as leading lines, shapes and patterns?  I zoomed back, framed the tree, and waited, always thinking like a landscape photographer and waiting for something like the images below.

Black-necked Stilts in Pond

Black-necked Stilts in Pond

Your mileage may differ, but I love these images much more than just the birds or trees alone, and I shot them thinking like a landscape photographer!

Photo 4: Black-necked stilts in pond, Mitchell Lake Audubon Center, San Antonio, Texas, USA. Canon 1Dx. 720mm. (Canon 200-400mm with 2x). ISO 800. f/16 @ 1/125 sec. EV +1 1/3.  (Why overexpose so much?  With pastels like this, you usually have to overexpose a bit from the meter reading to get the image to render as pastel, and not mid-toned blues).