Observing the Code of the Jungle

Avoid imitating birds to attract their attention. This can cause distress to certain species of birds, especially during their breeding season. Photograph/H Sathish

Avoid imitating birds to attract their attention. This can cause distress to certain species of birds, especially during their breeding season. Photograph/H Sathish

If you play by its rules, the forest can be the most fascinating and thrilling place to be in. However, one wrong move and you could either injure yourself or even miss out on a giant opportunity to photograph an animal in action. To make your experience joyful, Conchita Fernandes lets you in on a few tips.

Most of us have only had the chance of appreciating wildlife through the pages of books and magazines. But imagine being present in the midst of the forest and gazing at a herd of chitals prancing freely in the wild. But to get to this point, there’s a lot more that goes into preparing for a wildlife expedition.

Being an Inconspicuous Spectator
Animals have the sharpest senses. If they spot you, you can bid farewell to all your chances of observing their behavior in their natural habitat. So observe them from a safe distance and do not make sudden noises or movements that will startle them.

Upholding the Sanctity of the Environment
When you arrive at the spot, make sure that you do not leave obvious trails by breaking twigs and leaves or bruising the bark of trees. Animals are quick to pick up on this and will avoid the area you are in.

Do Not Use Food as Bait
It is unethical to lure an animal with food for the sake of a photograph, or even to reward it with food. You are doing nothing apart from intruding its space and disturbing the natural order of life.

Understanding Behavioural Patterns
Research why an animal behaves in a particular way. For instance, when a group of deer stop grazing abruptly, chances are that they have sensed a predator and are being alert. Paying attention to their behaviour will help you capture the action that follows.

Never Go Close to the Young Ones
Animals are quick to detect an intruder that has entered their territory, especially their nesting areas. It is best that you stay away because if you end up anywhere close to their young ones, the mother might reject the child to be its own and leave it to die. Also, even the smallest of animals will attack if they are threatened while in the company of their young.

Keep Your Expectations in Check
Patience is the key. Remember that it takes months and sometimes years for a photographer to have a single sighting. Don’t expect to see a tiger and make a good picture of it during your four-day safari.

Try to be Anonymous in the Wild
The only way that you can maintain anonymity in the wild is by blending in with the surroundings. This is why you need to ensure that everything that you wear and carry does not have any distinct smell that will make the animals wary of your presence. Make sure that you are dressed in camouflage clothing. Don’t forget to cover your hair with a grey or green cap. Also on the day of the safari, make sure that you wash yourself with plain water and avoid synthetic soaps or shampoos, so that you don’t give off any unnatural scent.

Question Every Move You Make
When you are out in the wild, question every step that you take. Ask yourself whether what you are doing is necessary and if it is helping the environment in any way. For instance, disposing your waste in the forest is just detrimental to the animals’ habitat and also disrespectful to nature.

Most importantly though, remember that you are in someone else’s home. Don’t prolong your stay such that you are a burden on the environment, and thus end up exploiting their resources for the purpose of making a photograph.

This article originally appeared in the November 2014 issue of Better Photography.

Tags: Wildlife, Environment, photography, technique, Conchita Fernandes, jungle, Feature, Firest, Learn to Observe the Code of the Jungle, Behavioural Patterns