Watching wildlife while camping or hiking is always entertaining to some degree. Catching a few wild critters in action with a camera adds to the fun, and possibly, more the reason to get out on a trail more. Avid wildlife photographers study the habits of wildlife as much, or more so than they do photography equipment and techniques. For the novice photographer, or a hiker or camper with a simple point-and-shoot pocket camera (or smart phone), simply wanting a few impressive wildlife photos for the scrapbook, they should target the edge — the edge of wildlife habitats. Spotting more wildlife increases the odds of a better photo for wall or album.
Critters love edge, any edge which is created when two habitats meet. For example: a row of trees growing along a field edge, a plot of shrubs bordering a stand of young trees or mature forest with brushy patches growing along the edge. Wildlife are attracted to diversity of habitat and especially so when a food source, water source and shelter are included in the edge. Hiking trails that lead from one type of habitat to another put the hiker in the path of meeting wildlife. Early mornings and late afternoons are prime to visit the edges, as the wildlife travel from one habitat to the other, moving from daytime cover to more open feeding areas. Even an edge of vegetation alone will attract numerous species of critters, birds, butterflies and other colorful insects, which make attractive, close-up images.
When approaching an edge, do so slowly. Even metro park hiking trails lead to some edge points for photographing wildlife. Wild animals have adapted to the presence of humans roaming trails that intersect the animals' turf. If a specific wildlife species is sought after for a photo, spend a few minutes studying the animal from the pages of a field guide. A few surprising facts may steer you in a different direction and to the likely edge that will put the animal in front of your camera lens. It's wise to add a pair of binoculars to provide the first look at the animal as it reveals itself at a distance. Sitting in a portable blind used for hunting will really increase your odds of a great photo, but going total camo is not really necessary. Again, the animals are aware of the fact a human may be cruising by on the path snaking through the field and forest. So, simply walk and pause, take a few steps and pause again. Sit down on a bench or log and be quiet and still. And watch the edge.