Photographer Heather Green knows how frustrating it can be to wait for the perfect shot. But she also knows how rewarding it can be when opportunity finally comes along. Earlier this year, her patience paid off–big. After years of waiting, Heather happened upon a mother panther and two cubs in the Sunshine State’s Fakahatchee Strand Preserve, camera in hand. Defenders caught up with the Florida photog to talk cameras, conservation and capturing some of the state’s unique animals on film.
Defenders: How did you get into wildlife photography?
Heather Green: Originally I started doing equine photography (horse shows, rodeos, etc.) until we moved up to Clewiston, Florida. We bought a house on five acres and I couldn’t believe the amount of wildlife that was just in my own backyard. I started photographing the different birds, then I’d look them up online to identify them. I also started to view other wildlife photographers’ work on flickr.com. I opened my own account and began uploading my photos, eventually meeting several really wonderful people who gave me some tips on photographing wildlife. As my ‘addiction’ to wildlife photography grew, I knew I had to invest in a better camera and lens. A camera with more frames per second, and a lens with more of a zoom.
D: Where have you photographed?
HG: Right in the vicinity of my own area I love to visit Dinner Island Wildlife Management Area. There’s so many birds, wild hogs and deer out there that you could easily fill up a half day or full day just shooting there. I also enjoy the Okaloacoochee Slough, Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary, Ding Darling (on Sanibel), and of course Fakahatchee Strand. I have been known to travel just to get a certain bird photo.
D: Was your run-with the panther your most memorable shot? What made it so special?
HG: Most definitely! For years I’ve obsessed over seeing a Florida panther. I’ve gotten up before sunrise to go scout out areas more times than I can count, walked trails looking for tracks, I’ve visited different areas at different times of the day where panthers have been spotted, hoping to catch a glimpse of one. One day I was checking out my contacts’ photos on flickr and saw a post by a friend who said he’d spotted a panther on Jane’s Scenic Drive around 12 o’clock in the afternoon the day before. Right away I thought, I need to get down there. My husband and I took a drive down there and to this day, I’m still shocked that we saw that family of three. When I go back and look at the photos I took that day, I still can’t believe it.
D: What’s the toughest part of your job? What do you do to overcome it?
HG: Having patience is probably the toughest part. Waiting on a bird to move into the position you want or waiting on it to move it’s head so that the sun catches it’s eye the right way. There is a lot of waiting involved but if you can wait it out, it pays off in the end.
D: How do you think wildlife photography is important to conservation efforts?
HG: I think an amazing photo of a bird or animal in it’s natural (wild) environment catches everyone’s attention and it helps people to realize how beautiful and special these animals are and that they’re practically living in their own backyards here in Florida.
D: What advice do you have for aspiring wildlife photographers?
HG: You have to have patience, you have to do your research if you’re looking for a specific animal to photograph and find out where you need to go to get that photo. You should have a decent DSLR camera (that you know very well) and at least a 300mm zoom lens if you’re just starting out. You don’t need top of the line equipment, you just have to know YOUR equipment very well and you’ll be able to pull off some amazing shots.
Check out some of Heather’s work below and see more on her website, HeatherGreenPhoto.com.