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Hints from Finland

The golden and the necessary rules of hide photography

Commercial hides offer has increased and, as summer arrives, there comes the desire for sensations and images these hides can provide - sometimes for the first time. You can install your own bird or big animal hide, but you must first obtain the necessary authorisations.

Although these guidelines focus on the way commercial photographer's hides operate, these advices are valuable for anyone who plans to spend some time in a personal hide - their own or somebody else's- just as well. “Listen to the more experienced ones and you will get the reliable information you need”, is the advice given by Olli Lamminsalo, a nature - especially bird- photographers guide who works in the Kuusamo area.
The sounds of nature, their specific features and characteristics should always be paid attention to. Nature is a priority and never leave behind any object that may cause disturbance. “Calm down and relax, and don't fuss” says Olli Lamminsalo.

Always respect your subject and fellow photographers as well. Secondly, information is available so that, all mistakes having already been made, you don't have to learn things the hard way anymore.
If other photographers are shooting from the same hide, don't forget them. Most hides are places where several people happen to share quite different human interests and goals. “Let others work in peace and respect them is Rule number two in this situation. Do not go to spoil other photographers's shooting session.” Lamminsalo points out.

Listen to the experienced ones

Before going to a hide, the owner or guide will go through what you will find in the hide, how you should behave and how the animals you are going to see generally behave. "The old photographer Hannu Hautala's words about knowing you subject well are still valid. The commercial hide's entrepreneurs do know their subject and it is vital to listen to them and follow their instructions." Lamminsalo says. For example, you act very differently in a hide for Eagle and in a hide for Black Grouse. With an Eagle avoiding sudden movements of the lens is a priority. Black grouse in courtship are so focused on themselves and each other that avoiding any movement in the hide is not as important, as long as you wait until the courtship is on its peak.
The hide's owners often know the animals individually and know about teach one's behaviour and what each of them can tolerate. "We know in what situations you should not move or take pictures, as well as, for example, that this specific individual is more sensitive and thus more unpredictable.”

For the inexperienced, some mental preparation to the hide's experience is important to avoid unintentional slips. "Photographing is very similar to hunting, because it is based on reflexes. No matter how many time I say in advance that you should not move at all when the eagle comes, there is always someone who starts shooting at once - just before the reflex of the mind has time to prevent the reflex of the hand."
Movement at the wrong time can cause a hide to face several days of full silence. If there are other photographers with you, you can be sure that they will be full of disapproval.

Don't be fooled by easiness

Hides don't grow by themselves in the middle of nowhere. They are built according to rules agreed upon in advance. "Everyone of the hide's owner's rules and regulations must be followed, no matter what." Bad light or lack of animals is no excuse to step out or move to another place. You should not be mislead by what is said about how easy it is to take great pictures from a hide. "It does not mean that you go to a hide and just watch a one or two hours' show waiting for you there. Photographing nature is always dependent on nature's whims, and patience is the only password. "
Without commercial hides, many would never have the opportunity to fully experiences and photograph what they have to offer. Bringing carrion and maintaining a private hide beside one's regular job, as a hobby, is a hard work, impossible for the vast majority. Building and maintaining a hide all year around means a crazy amount of work! Entrepreneurs running the hides upkeep them all year around and the animals are used of the sounds of cameras. It is so easy to forget how much work that implies.

You're not a troublemaker, are you?

It's sad that uninvited people come to the hides to photograph or look at animals without permission, acting against all rules and safety instructions.
Sometimes someone sets up his own hide near an entrepreneur's hide, appealing to the “free camping” right. In Finland, free camping is granted... but not near hides nor feeding places. "At the minimum, one should have respect for others peoples work." Mr. Lamminsalo says. "At least, one should think what is the use of creating disturbance at somebody else's hide, where the animals feel secure and have their habits." When you are a user of nature, which is what nature photographers are, you should never forget that nature must be respected, whatever you do. This is an everlasting point to remember."

In some instances in the field of nature photography, the technical aspect takes over. One just adjusts his cameras settings and shoots the picture. But the competition for good pictures and situations should never be the cause of any unacceptable behavior.


Author : Raisa Nevelainen, First published in Finnish in Luontokuva magazine 03/2012

All photos © Adrian Langdon


Eight steps to success

Always follow the rules of the hide
Avoid sudden movements, and any noise.
Speak only in a whisper and only if necessary
Do not leave the hide before you are invited to.
Set up your camera gear and other equipment as soon as you enter the hide.
Set your camera on “Quiet” mode if possible (shutter sounds are not covered outside the booth).
In situations when the animals themselves cause noise or are concentrated in action, you can shoot more freely.
If your subject starts to stare at you, or is on the alert, stop any action.