I have photographed wildlife and wilderness landscapes in the valleys of Yellowstone, the canyons of Utah, the marshlands of Florida and the wilds of Maine, Pennsylvania, and Quebec. However, home for me is in the Southern Tier of New York State, far from the concrete canyons of Manhattan, from where I also focus on our beautiful and unique Finger Lakes Region. Visible from space, this vast area encompasses 11 long, slender and nearly-parallel lakes, 14 watershed counties, and 9,000 square miles of incomparable scenic landscapes.
But those landscapes have undergone dramatic and significant changes since they were first settled by colonists nearly three centuries ago. As virgin forests were cleared for farmland and timber, the resulting habitat changes altered the dynamics of almost every species of native wildlife. Animals like black bears, river otters and timber wolves disappeared altogether while other creatures like the wild turkey and whitetail deer adapted as the newly-emerging habitats became more hospitable to their needs.
Today those dynamics are changing once again. Beginning a century ago, hardscrabble hillside farm fields, made up mostly of gravelly alluvial soils and stony glacial till with little or no topsoil, were eventually abandoned because of poor crop yields. The resulting ecological succession from crops to weeds to brush and back to woodlands has reopened the door to re-colonization by animals that have been gone for a century or more. In some cases, wildlife management programs have been implemented to reintroduce species that were once endangered or threatened. In another, the more recent colonization by coyotes is a natural phenomenon that started when the canine predators gradually migrated from the West to fill the void left by the extirpation of the timber wolf in the East.
A century ago, 75 percent of the Finger Lakes Region was under the plow. Today, nearly that same percentage is forested. As a result, wildlife photography opportunities in the Finger Lakes Region are better than ever. With a little patience and some perseverance, anyone with the desire and a camera can successfully photograph wild animals and birds.
If you’d like to seriously consider taking up wildlife photography, look for the first installment of my three-part series of articles entitled “Photographing Wildlife: Part One” in the March/April 2016 issue of Life in the Finger Lakes magazine. It can be your guide to pursuing a pastime that can start out as a simple hobby and lead to selling your images. And what better place is there to pursue that pastime than around the woods and waters of the beautiful and unique Finger Lakes Region?