It may sound strange to say know yourself, but you really have to know your own limitations as well as your strong points to get the most out of your wildlife experience. If you can’t tolerate extreme cold, even when bundled up from head to toe (Figure 4.17), heading to Yellowstone in winter to photograph frosty bison (Figure 4.18) might not be the best plan of action.
Figure 4.17 A down-filled jacket and Windbloc fleece pants protect me from sub-zero temps in Churchill, Canada. Photograph by Greg Cook.
Figure 4.18 Its thick coat protects a bison from the sub-zero temperatures and blowing snow that cakes its fur.
You also need to consider how much weight you are willing and able to carry into the field and how long you are able carry it. Understanding your strength capabilities as well as weather tolerance in cold and heat, dry or humid conditions will enable you to plan your wildlife photographic adventures to locations that will yield the best opportunities for you. Your mobility will determine how far afield you can go, if you can get down on your stomach or knees to photograph small shorebirds at eye level, or whether you have to use distance and a long lens to even out the height difference of towering over small subjects.
Wildlife photography is an exercise in patience. You may have to walk great distances to find a subject, or you may have to wait for hours watching a sleeping subject before it actually does something that provides you with more than portraits. Are you prepared to put in the time required to find your subject and then wait until you get not just any shot but great shots filled with behavior and action? If so, you can get to locations that few people visit. If you aren’t able to make long treks with heavy gear, plan your adventures around locations where wildlife is accessible from the roadside or a short distance away.