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Using your vehicle for a wildlife blind

Robert Strickland

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October 19th, 2019 - 11:32 AM

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Using your vehicle for a wildlife blind

I am a self-Taught Professional Photographer and writer. I have been doing photography for more than 40 years. My specialty is nature and wildlife. In the winter months, I photograph nature and wildlife throughout Florida. In the summer months, I photograph nature and wildlife throughout upstate New York. In between, we have yearly stops at the Great Smokey Mountains National Park.
As you age, you want to take life a little easier so I have altered myself to using my vehicle as Photography Blind.

I use my vehicle as a moveable or mobile wildlife photo blind. It allows the luxury of sitting in a seat, relaxing and being comfortable. The key word is comfortable, I have been out in the woods with no seat cuddled up under a tree freezing and trying to stay warm while waiting for a subject to come by, it just isn’t comfortable.
The vehicle takes you to another level when using it for photography. The birds and wildlife have become accustomed to the many vehicles there are on the roads today. So, they tend to be more passive around vehicles then seeing a person on foot, which allows you to get much closer to your target. I use a specialized Beanbag to support my camera lens. My beanbag, packed with sunflower seeds and it holds the camera lens rock solid. The beanbag, is made so it lies through the window opening, providing a very stable platform. When I get to an area that looks like a potential hotspot, I get out the beanbag and lay it through the window, lay my camera lens on it and slowly drive ahead until I spot a subject. I then adjust the camera lens and take the photo. Sometimes shooting from a window limits the angle of the shot; you can solve that issue by rolling up the window slightly or get creative with the angle of the vehicle. It also helps if your outside mirrors can fold out of your way. Take the Loop Road everyone pokes their camera out the window to get shots of the wildlife and that is great, but I am looking for an extremely sharp photo. Therefore, as I drive down the loop road, I will use a pull off and shut the vehicle down to get the photo I am looking for. Sometime it costs me when I want to get going again.

My vehicle is reasonably silent and I can almost sneak up on some of the subjects. I would not recommend a loud diesel vehicle they are just too noisy. You want a vehicle to be as quiet as possible to be effective. Noise scares everything away. I was driving slowly along a backroad and drove right up on some grouse that were feeding. Many times, I have driven very slowly just creeping along just to get closer to birds and other wildlife near the roads.
I always bring my tripod and blind in case there is a need to disappear and really checkout an area. You can cover the window opening with some see through camo material. You open the door, insert the excess material around the doorframe, and shut the door. This gives a little extra hiding capability if you’re working a very spooky subject such as coyote or a deer. You cut a slit into the material for the camera lens
When you come up on a subject, you want to turn off the vehicle. The engine causes vibration, which can have an effect on your photos making look soft or even out of focus, something you do not want. If effects the long lens most of all.
Depending on the weather, you will want to dress appropriately, as the windows will be open. It can get chilly in the vehicle. I sometimes turn on the heater or AC and let it run to keep me comfortable. In the cooler months, I dress in long sleeve camo shirt, shorts and wear a camo hat, to help with detection.
With the windows down, it invites a variety of insects to enter the vehicle causing you discomfort, so always have a handy can of insect repellent.
Speaking of the weather if it is hot and muggy and your equipment has been inside the house with the AC on; you want to place it in the garage or some other area to ensure you have no fogging when you find a subject. You can also be shooting in the cold freezing air and take the camera lens inside; you should place it in a large plastic bag and let it come up to temperature slowly. I have been in my vehicle parked on some subjects only to find my lens and camera fogged up causing a lot of grief and no shots of a subject I wanted.
Any type of vehicle can be effective as a blind, from a small car to trucks are effective. I had a truck, which I used the back as a stationary platform to set up my blind when I found an active Great Horned Owls Nest. Once you have entered a hotspot and are getting some photos, you never want to open or crack the door or the subject will flush and disappear. If you see others taking photos do not leave your car as it will create animosity and enemies as you will probably flush what they were shooting.
Using this technique, could reward you with a photograph of a subject such as this Great Horned Owl.


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