Raccoon at J.N. "Ding" Darling National Wildlife Refuge (FL)
Credit: Gabby Salazar

When I was 12 years old, my father put a camera in my hands and took me over to a friend's backyard bird garden. While I had always loved the outdoors, I rarely slowed down to watch and listen to the sights and sounds of nature. The camera opened up a whole new world.

I could see the details in the feathers of the bluebird on the branch across the way. I found lovely shapes on the underside of a leaf. Suddenly, the outdoor world became a place of discovery and artistic wonder.

Since then I have traveled throughout the country taking pictures of wildlife and during that time I have visited many national wildlife refuges. You do not have to travel far to find beautiful scenery and subjects – your backyard or local refuge can provide many opportunities. Each month I will share tips for taking better pictures and for photographing different subjects – this month, try e a squirrel in your backyard, a deer at a local refuge, or a pet. Check back next month for more tips:

  • Focus on the eyes. When you frame your image, make sure that the animal's eyes are in focus – they capture any viewer's attention.


  • Include the environment. Try photographing the animal in its environment instead of just zooming in close. Show the surrounding area to tell a story about the animal's lifestyle.


  • Be respectful of wildlife. Never get too close to animals. If your presence is changing their behavior, you should back away.