It never ceases to amaze me how many great wildlife photography opportunities out there. I first photographed a badger on a trip our west and it was so much fun. I think it is great because they are so mysterious and don’t really like the spotlight but in the end I was able to get my shots.
Here are 5 tips for photographing badgers. These tips come from my own experiences photographing badgers and should work equally well for other elusive animal. This is not a comprehensive list of all things you need to do when photographing any animal, just some helpful pointers for one particular type of wildlife that many people might want to capture on camera.
Badger Photography Tips
1) Location, Location, Location
Badgers are pretty secretive and nocturnal animals. This means they aren’t often seen in the wild during daylight hours and they spend a lot of their time underground. In my experience most badger photos have been taken at night. However, I got another opportunity to photograph a badger in the day by checking out their daytime activity areas and waiting until they appeared. When photographing badgers its important to set up where you know there are nests or dens nearby. Badgers are territorial animals and they will travel between their nests, food sources and mating locations.
It’s important to be well prepared for your wildlife photography session because you never know how long it will take the badgers to appear or where they’ll come from. I want to have my camera out, on a tripod and ready to go. I’m going to have my exposure settings locked in, have an idea of what settings I’m shooting for and be able to take some test shots if possible.
Here is what I would recommend:
Full frame wide angle lens. This will help you to capture the entire badger den/nest and allow you to get a lot of detail in the foreground. It helps to bring a wide angle lens because badgers are generally very low to the ground and aren’t high up in the trees like some other animals.
Tripod: A solid tripod can be invaluable for wildlife photography especially when shooting animals that are nocturnal or hard to see from a distance. I would not go out for wildlife photography without a dedicated tripod and head. There are a lot of options on the market today and I like to use really tall tripods like the Really Right Stuff TVC-24L Tripod with BH-55 Ballhead. The tall height is good for wildlife photography because I can shoot down to my subject and the extra weight in the legs helps it to stay put in the wind.
Long lenses also require more stability so you’ll want to use a solid ball head. My favorite is the Really Right Stuff BH-55 Ball Head. The top plate is mounted on a friction system for easy adjustment and there are many bubble levels so you can level your camera perfectly.
3) Camera Settings
I’m going to recommend keeping it simple and always starting out with a tripod, a wide angle lens and keeping your ISO low. The only exception would be if you are photographing badgers in the day when they are less active. Then you can lower the ISO so that it doesn’t kick up too much noise.
For badgers I would recommend using the following settings:
Focal Length: 200mm (this will bring the badger into focus and allow you to shoot with a relatively wide angle)
Aperture: f/8 or f/16 for difficult light situations such as cloudy conditions.
Shutter Speed: 1/125th of a second for long exposures. If possible use something faster for flash-free images.
4) Camera Position
You need to be in a spot where you can see badgers while they continue to move around. In my experience badgers are very wary of humans. Like most other animals, they don’t like being in close proximity to humans. If I am outside photographing them my first choice would always be on the ground. This allows me to get a better sense of their movements and the environment surrounding them.
5) Consider a flash
In my experience badgers are not keen on flash photography. They seem more sensitive to it than other animals. If your camera has a flash, its best to first test it at the maximum range you might have to shoot and see what happens. That way you can either adjust your expectations or bring your flash if it looks like it might work.
I really enjoy photographing badgers. It can be challenging but the effort is worth it. I’ve been able to photograph many different species of wildlife with a wildlife photography workshop and it’s one of my favorite species to photograph.