Camera-traps open up a whole new world of wildlife photography and research, offering the chance to capture images of rare, elusive or just plain shy animals. The ethical argument is also very strong, because the absence of a human observer allows animals to act perfectly naturally (take care when baiting with food – see ‘Feed your subject’ below).
I find that setting up a camera (with or without flash strobes) and leaving it to capture a natural self-portrait of a wild animal exerts an irresistible attraction.
1 Know your subject If you have a particular species in mind, research it thoroughly. Learn its size and shape, pattern of activity, roaming behaviour and habitat.
2 Stop the smells Wear gloves when you are preparing your camera to avoid leaving traces of scent. Do it outdoors and away from pets.
3 Seek permission If necessary, make sure you obtain a landowner’s approval before installing your camera-trap. Trailcams are often used by poachers, so gamekeepers remove them.
4 Get the right site Look for well-trodden animal paths, droppings, tracks and signs of feeding. Clear any twigs or leaves from the camera’s field of view, and point it north or south to avoid direct sunlight at dawn and dusk.
5 Pick your height To snap a particular species, research its height at the shoulder and position your camera accordingly, so it alone breaks the beam. The fox, for instance, ranges between 20cm and 40cm, so set the trap at 30cm.
6 Feed your subject The easiest animals to ‘trap’ are those that use pathways and accept food. But only offer food irregularly so the animal does not become dependent on your handouts.