(c) Jack Ballard
Like any other business, making a living as a wildlife photographer requires dedication to the craft, marketing savvy and the financial discipline to keep revenue and expenses aligned to make a profit. It also takes lots and lots of stunning photos. Professional wildlife photographers I know specialize in various subjects from amphibians to waterfowl. No matter what species they photograph, their digital and/or film files contain anywhere from 10,000 to 500,000 images. A couple fellows I know have nearly a million photos from which to choose.
Where do they go to shoot all those wonderful wildlife pictures? While some construct habitat to attract birds and mammals to their own backyards, most rely on public sites such as national and state parks or wildlife refuges to get within camera range of the critters. In addition to well-known wildlife sanctuaries such as Yellowstone National Park, most photographers have a few lesser-known wildlife havens where they find excellent success with their cameras. After informally interviewing a few of my photographer friends, here are some of the diverse places where they love to photograph wildlife.
Custer State Park, SD – This recommendation comes from a travel-loving photographer in New Hampshire. Located on the eastern edge of the Black Hills southwest of Rapid City, Custer State Park ranges from rugged, pine-covered hills to creek bottoms lined with oak and birch trees to rolling grassy prairie. Bison, elk, whitetail and mule deer, pronghorn and bighorn sheep all roam the park and are usually found near the road that loops through the park’s interior. June, when the grass is lush and newborn animals are trotting after their mothers, is a prime time to photograph. October and November are excellent as well. Both months find hoofed animals preoccupied with mating and easy to photograph. The park is also home to a plethora of raptors and songbirds.