Chiara Talia

Discover the Beauty of Local Wildlife Photography

In a world that often glorifies far-flung destinations and exotic wildlife encounters, the prospect of local wildlife photography might seem underwhelming. But as someone who has found immense joy and surprise in the wildlife thriving in the heart of a bustling Belgian city, I can assure you, the most enchanting photographic subjects might just be roaming in your backyard. This blog post isn’t just to sway you to pick up your camera and stroll through your local park; it’s to inspire a shift in perspective—one that celebrates the natural wonder within our reach.

Yes, there’s an unparalleled joy in falling in love with your local wildlife. 

It took time, effort, and patience, but the truth is there are hidden pockets of nature just waiting to be explored at your doorstep. In addition, there are many advantages coming from practicing Wildlife Photography close to home. 

Lesson 1. Local biodiversity is worth it

When thinking about staying local we might fall into two mistakes. 

  1. We might overlook “common” species, when in fact there is beauty in those species too and they play a critical role in the local ecosystem. In addition, common species represent the perfect subject to practice our photography – because they are easy to find! This is why, no matter how common, I keep taking photos of Eurasian coots. Also, familiarity can really push your creativity further. Ask yourself “How can I portray this bird differently this time?”. 
  2. We might underestimate the local biodiversity. Although Belgium might not be a renowned wildlife destination, you could be blown away by the richness of biodiversity in your local area. With some patience, you would be surprised of the diverse range of fauna you could find nearby. 

Eurasian coots are among the most common birds that can be seen in any habitat with water around Belgium and
the Netherlands. Portraying a common bird differently is a very good way to challenge yourself. All these photos were
taken at a small wetland areas and parks around the city, just before sunrise.

Lesson 2. The Most Rewarding Adventures Are Local

Stay local might be more challenging. You might need to explore more places before finding a “good one” or you might need to wait for longer before getting to the “right moment” when compared to a far away more famous “wild” place – but the greater the challenge, the greater the reward! That feeling can’t be beaten. 

Lesson 3. Learning Opportunities

By spending time in close by locations, you will get a deep insight on animal behavior, up to the point or learning habits of individual animals. You will also learn more about the connection between the animals and their habitat, as well as the impact of seasonal changes and migration patterns. Going frequently to your local spots can’t be boring – as the place will change all the time! This provides a huge opportunity for you to grow as a wildlife photographer, as knowing wildlife behavior enhances your ability to predict their next move and therefore to be more ready to capture unique wildlife moments.

Lesson 4. Connecting with Local Wildlife

Local wildlife photography isn’t just about taking pictures; it’s about telling stories.

Your local wildlife are not just subjects for your photos; but they become companions and friends, characters in a story that unfolds right outside your doorstep and every time you go looking for them again. This is the connection that can be translated in amazing photos, full of meaning and emotions. 

 

Pair of Great crested grebes caring for their chick - photo taken in a local city park. Local wildlife photography allows you to "follow" the stories of your subjects, as for this family.

Lesson 5. Connecting with Others

I would argue that photos taken locally can have a larger impact. You could use your images to show other people, as family members and friends, the beauty around them – which they might never paid attention to. In addition, your images can also be a powerful mean to document the impact of human activities, climate change, or also conservation efforts in your local area. 

Lesson 6. Minimizing Carbon Footprint

It is undeniable that extensive travel can have an environmental impact due to the long distance covered. By staying local, as a photographer you can significantly reduce your carbon footprint, which in turn has beneficial effects also for wildlife. This is a simple but powerful way to be part of the effort to take care of our environment, without giving up on our favorite activity. 

A group of mallards at the first light of the day, taken in a location I can reach in less than 10 minutes from my flat.

Lesson 7. Accessibility for All

Local wildlife photography is inherently inclusive. Without the need for expensive travel or gear, anyone with a smartphone or a camera can document the life around them. Parks, reserves, and natural areas are often accessible by public transport, making it easier for individuals of different abilities and ages to engage with nature.

Tips and Challenges to improve for your Local Wildlife Photography

Are you up for a local wildlife photography challenge? Here’s some ideas to practice and understand the great value of photographing close to home. 

 

  • Photograph a common species you have never photographed before 
  • Take a new photo of a common species you have photographed already, but this time try something different, think out of the box
  • Find a less common species you have never seen (and photographed) before 
  • Use your photos for storytelling (for example putting together a collection of photos of different species taken in the same location, or of the same species throughout the seasons) 

Conclusion

You are not convinced yet? In this short video on Instagram you can also see other photos I took less than 10 km away from my flat in Belgium. 

So here’s my call to fellow wildlife photographers:

To those who believe that the true adventure lies in far-away-lands, I challenge you to look closer to home and to find beauty in what is only apparently ordinary. And I would encourage everyone, especially beginners, to get started as close as possible.

Chiara 

This article is also available in Dutch , French and German on the website of Kamera Express – of which I am ambassador 🙂 

2 thoughts on “Discover the Beauty of Local Wildlife Photography”

  1. When I started bird photography I met someone who also took photographs here locally. He was particularly good at this and I have often looked at his photos as an example. After a few years he started visiting photohides, his photos became spectacular. But then this was no longer a challenge and he started making further and further journeys. His photos now reached ‘national geographic’ level. But at a certain point he could find no further challenge. He lost his pleasure and eventually sold his equipment. The lesson I learned from this is that you should always be able to find appreciation in a good photo of an ordinary species. Anyone who can no longer find pleasure in photographing for instance coots loses much of the charm of bird photography.

  2. I really sympathise with your promotion of doing photography locally. You see many photographers on YouTube travelling the world to make images as if the more exotic destinations and species are more precious than what we find outside our door step. I am a Dane by origin living in Belgium for 13 years now, and are still finding new spots around here. Living in Wallonia- been a few times in the hides you can rent around Kalmthout north of Antwerp. I can recommend to explore those. All the best and success with your wildlife career.
    Kim

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