I drove out to Boyce Thompson Arboretum last weekend for a wildlife photography class with Lisa Langell. Click here for Lisa’s website, her images are stunning. Lisa’s presentation style is warm and personable and she has lots of great stories. The class was titled Seven Common Mistakes in Wildlife Photography and I’ll confess here that I make them all!
But, my biggest photography sin? No patience!
Lisa advocates the careful study of animals as they move about in their natural environment. She urges persistence to catch wildlife in characteristic acts that speak of their habits. She told of visiting potential sites on different days at different times to maximize the lighting and composition. She sometimes waits, hidden in cover for hours, before finally capturing her signature images.
This is a far cry from me, tromping along with camera bumping my ribcage, hoping to spot any sort of critter and praying it holds still long enough for me to get a shot off. So the class gave me plenty to think about.
Before Lisa spoke, there was a lizard walk led by Arizona Game and Fish wildlife biologist Abi King. Abi was also great and led twenty or so of us, children and adults, through the shimmering heat on a reptile hunt. We had not walked far along the garden path before someone spied a coachwhip snake, lying just off the trail. The poor snake was dead, but recently so, and his inactivity gave us all time to see what a big coachwhip looks like.
These snakes can get as long as 5 to 6 feet. They are one of the fastest snakes and a reptile that shinnies up trees with ease. During the daytime hours coachwhips patrol their territory hunting for grasshoppers, cicadas, lizards, birds, rodents and snakes – even rattlesnakes. If cornered by a predator, the coachwhip coils, vibrates its tail and strikes repeatedly at the face of the attacker.
We also saw a number of other reptiles; ornate tree lizards doing pushups, whiptails scurrying through the brush and a side blotch lizard basking on a rock. Usually it was one of the kids who spotted the critters first.
Altogether, a wonderful time out at the Arboretum. They open at 6 am this time of year.
Sources: Reptilesofaz.org and National Audubon Society Field Guild to Reptiles