Tips for Trapping Wildlife on Camera

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Using Traps to Capture Wildlife As Never Before Seen

riis-camera-trap-pronghorn

This photo is an example of how a camera trap can capture stunning images that have never been seen before.

In this shot, the herd of Pronghorn are migrating south. They travel about 150 miles each fall to reach their winter grounds after having spent the summer in Grand Teton National Park.

Even though the route is known and is long, it was not documented until now.

A herd of 300 pronghorn spend their summers in Grand Teton National Park, each fall they migrate down into the Upper Green River Basin of Wyoming, a distance of about 150 miles. This migration is the longest land mammal migration in the United States, it has never been photographed before my project.

A remote camera trap is pretty simple. It’s just a normal DSLR camera connected to a motion trigger. I don’t push the shutter button, the animal trips an infrared beam, and then click, click, click. It’s really the only way to make intimate wide-angle pictures of wild animals without disturbing them. Pronghorn like to see far and run fast—it’s impossible to get close to them. So, if I’m around, they are not, that’s why I need to use a remote camera trap. ~Joe Riis
Riis explains that he learned the intricacies of a wildlife trap camera set up by following the work of the greats, Michael Nick Nichols and Steve Winter. And lots of trial and error.
Nichols and Riis worked together again recently on a project for National Geographic. Their piece on Yellowstone is slated to be out this year.
If you are interested in building your own camera trap, Joe has provided us with a list of the required goods.

– Nikon DSLR with wide-angle lens
– Trailmaster 1550 trigger
– custom weatherproof housing, camouflaged
– extra batteries and big SD cards

Riis has also worked with video traps.

A little advice when shooting wildlife, with or without a trap. The trap is a tool. Like all tools, things can go wrong. In the end, you have to have patience and know what to look for.

The skill is in the photographer, not the tool.


Thanks to Joe Riis of Joe Riis Photography and National Geographic. For more information and to watch a video of the set up, click here.

Photograph by Joe Riis.

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