How to photograph wildlife in your backyard

Your next subject may be hiding under your deck

Whether you live in the city or the ‘burbs, critters are plentiful. During your staycation, you can hone your wildlife photography skills by capturing winged and pawed creatures in your yard or in the ‘hood. (What--you've never seen a pidgeon before?)

The two most easily accessible wild beasties are birds--especially hummingbirds--and grey squirrels. Here are tips for photographing each.

Hummingbirds: Set up a hummingbird feeder and fill it with nectar. Then, set up your camera behind a blind or shoot through a window in your house (if you’re setting up a feeder, keep in mind camera angles from inside the house, and make sure the background is either very dark or very light—nothing distracting). Make sure there’s a perch where the birds can sit near the feeder. Then set up your camera on a tripod with a long lens, and choose a fast shutter speed to stop those wings, which flap at 70 beats a second! If you’re ambitious, set up a remote-controlled flash or two aimed at the feeder. Then sit quietly, and wait. Eventually, hummingbirds will come. Be patient!

Richard Rodvold photographed this hummer with a Canon 20D and Canon 300mm f/2.8 lens at 1/2500 sec, f/2.8, and ISO 100. Photo © Richard Rodvold/

Grey Squirrels: Like hummingbirds, the best way to capture squirrels is to bait them with food.  Greys like peanuts, apples, almond extract. Put out a selection, set up your camera and wait. You can be more out in the open—most squirrels are unafraid of humans if you’re 10 feet away—but move slowly so you don’t spook them.



If you have a deck, simply put the bait food out on a ledge, position your camera on a tripod, and wait for a squirrel to chow down. That’s what Jason Phelps did here.
Photo © Jason Phelps/

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