Entering the Circle of Fear, Stalking and Hides Part Two

December 18, 2015  •  Leave a Comment


The other way is being in a hide or blind and waiting for the wildlife to come to you. Basically, all a hide does is cover your human shape so that the wildlife is unaware of you and carries on its normal day to day business. There are several types of hide the easiest way is going into a nature reserve and utilising their hides. The pros of this type are that they are there all the time and the wildlife has got used to it and accepted it and so they will be more at ease. You can visit it regularly and as you get used to viewing the same wildlife regularly then you will learn its habits noting when to anticipate an action for you to photograph. You don’t have to carry extra equipment as the hide is already built. They are usually waterproof and have seats so you can relax in it. The cons are: - the siting of the hide, the size of the hide and other people using the hide.

Siting of the hide - The distance from the hide to the wildlife might mean you need to use longer lenses. Nearly every hide I’ve visited at RSPB reserves have been too far, from the area where the subject appears and resides, for me to photograph with just a 500mm lens. This is because the hide is primarily sited for bird watchers with scopes rather than wildlife photographers also they want fewer disturbances for the birds from humans. Another problem is that the siting of the hide might not let you photograph wildlife in the best light because it might be facing the sun or vegetation is casting shadows over the area.

Size of the hide - When I talk about the size I mean the windows you use to look out of. I have been to some hides on nature reserves and the windows were about 18” wide but only about 4” or 5” high, which meant that there was no chance of using a 500mm or 600mm lens. I know that you don’t have to poke your lens out of the window but this type of opening really limits your field of view.

Other people using the hide - With this I mean other people using the hide whilst you are there. I don’t mind if there are a couple of other people in the same hide but on some occasions I have been in hides when you couldn’t move due to the amount of people there. Another downside of this is that the more people there are then the more noise and movement is generated which could frighten off the wildlife or make you photos blurry due to camera shake.

If you are going to use this type of hide then find a good one and use it when most people stay away. This might mean going there really early in the morning, late at night or during the time of year when there are less people about.

A similar type of hide as above is the use of your garden shed or other outbuildings in your garden and you could use this as an outdoor studio. This type has similar pros and cons as the nature reserve hides. The differences are, pros: - you are likely to visit this more than the nature reserve hide because it is so close, you can change the background to enhance your photo, you can adapt the hide to how you want it for your comfort and nobody else will use it without your permission. The only con is finding space for your garden equipment.

Other types are ones that you can buy or build yourself. The most basic type of hide is just a camouflage net thrown over yourself and you lying in wait for the wildlife to come closer. The next is a camouflage sheet that you throw over yourself, also known as a bag hide. I have one of these and if you keep perfectly still it can be very effective. I have had several moments whilst using this when wildlife has approached and only been a couple of feet from me. As per stalking try and get in position and settle down before the sun rises. The pros of these types are that they are light to carry and you can site the hide anywhere you want on your land or with the landowner’s permission. They are big enough for you, your camera, lens and tripod and you will be the only person using it. The cons are that it’s not warm and not waterproof so you would suffer if using this for any length of time. Although you can site it anywhere you must research the area to find out where the wildlife will appear, and return to that area, which has food, water or in the case of birds a favourite perch. It can be small and uncomfortable and any movement by you will move the material which could scare the wildlife. Also, if it is windy then the material will move and possible scare the wildlife. It also gives you a very restricted field of view and can be very frustrating especially when you can hear wildlife that is just out of view.

The next type is the tent or pop up hide, which you can either buy or build your own. To build your own you will need to have enough material preferably waterproof for the outside, something solid as a framework using either wood or metal and rope or string to pull it tight so that it does not flap in the wind. Try and make it as light as possible. Although most bought ones are, it does not have to be camouflaged as any natural colour will do. If you buy one then they cost in the region of about £200. The pros of this type are that they are light to carry and you can site them anywhere you want on your land or with the landowner’s permission, there is more room for you to allow movement without touching the hide. They are big enough for your equipment, store extra clothing / sleeping bag for warmth and you will be the only person using it. The cons are that they are not warm, not as waterproof as the manufacturer’s state, if built then can be heavy and you have to carry it. Although you can site it where you want you must research the area to find out where the wildlife will appear, and return to that area, that has food, water or in the case of birds a favourite perch. You should leave the hide in the area you want to photograph from, to let the wildlife get used to it as per the nature reserve hides, but if you do this and other people spot it then it could go missing. It gives you a very restricted field of view and can be very frustrating especially when you can hear wildlife just out of view. You need to carry some kind of seat as sitting or kneeling on the ground can become uncomfortable if done for any length of time. Although you can buy a “chair hide” which is a hide that is attached to a chair and because of this be aware of your movement.

You can build a hide using local materials from the area you intend to photograph from. By local materials I mean logs, branches, leaves, earth etc. The pros for this type are:- it’s cheap, once built it can be left in position without going missing, the wildlife will get used to it quicker as it will have the areas scents and smells on it and it is easy to rebuild if necessary. The cons are: - they are uncomfortable especially from cold and wet, no roof unless you use cloth or other non-local cover and can be used by others if found.

What about using your car as they can make very useful hides? As I have said, wildlife is scared of the human shape and who can blame them. If you use your car as a hide it is amazing how close you can get to the wildlife or how close it will come to you. You should cover up the other windows you are not using with camouflage netting to disguise your shape even more. Wildlife generally do not see a car as a threat and will come quite close. You can also move this hide to get closer to the wildlife. You can use a bean bag or fit a tripod clamp to the window sill to rest the lens on. If possible use the front or rear passenger seats as you will have more room to move, but be aware that on some cars the windows in the rear doors will not go fully down. This is quite a comfortable hide to use but do not use the radio whilst waiting for the wildlife to appear. Also, wind can be a problem with sharpness because it rocks the vehicle likewise if you leave the engine running for the heater. Have all your equipment ready in the car so that you stay inside all the time. You do not want to get into position and then have to get out of the car for your equipment that is in your boot as all your stealth will have been wasted.

You can even build a floating hide that will go on water. This type of hide can get you really close to wildlife but it does come with a lot of dangers to yourself and your equipment. When using one you have to think of where you are going to use it, tides, current, water depth, your comfort and keeping the equipment dry.


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