Wildlife photography, a question of patience (and camera equipment)
If you like the great outdoors, exploring the forest always offers an enjoyable adventure. After walking for only a few short minutes, revel in the peace and quiet, as photographer Lionel Tassan explains.
November 26 2019
Backpacking and trekking
Photography: a passion that just can't wait
Like most of us, Lionel does his best to make the most of those short windows of free time between work and family obligations. No reason to wait for the weekend to arrive, you can head out at night or before dawn. All you need is a good headlamp to light the way. For taking photos, Lionel likes to spend his time exploring the Belledonne Range whenever he has the chance, especially in a relatively wild corner of the French Alps near the village of Allevard where he hiked with his grandfather as a kid. High above the valley, the prairies and the surrounding forest are full of life: as a teenager Lionel first became interested in bird watching. Later on, backcountry skiing and the call of the high-mountains proved more compelling than the gentler appeal of wild alpine meadows.
In the dark for one-of-a-kind photos
In 2013, wildlife photography won him over. Lionel started with the deer mating season, and now spends many nights every autumn tracking bucks as they call out to the does in the area. He took his first high-quality photos at nightfall by hiding in a photography blind. Dusk and dawn offer the ideal opportunity to hear and observe the forest’s wild animals. The Belledonne Range also offers the chance to observe the black grouse, so elegant in the snow, or the pygmy owl, one of the species of owl that inhabits the forest.
The importance of good lighting
When taking wildlife photos, a headlamp that adjusts automatically to your needs is essential. The red lighting on Lionel’s headlamp allows him check his location on the map without distributing any animals. As one thing led to another, Lionel started to invest in camera traps, automatic photography equipment that he has now set up in several places at higher elevations in the Belledonne Range to capture the wildest animal in the Alps, the wolf. After seeing video recorded by his cameras, Lionel came face to face with the legendary creature one night in 2018. A wolf suddenly appeared on a ridgeline right in front of him. In spite of the fading light, Lionel took great photos. The magical moment lasted for twenty minutes while the wolf lay low, as if waiting for a reason to leave. What a truly unforgettable encounter for a photographer.
Experiencing the unexpected...
Today, Lionel has plans to recover one of his camera traps located in a remote corner of the mountains no less than a one-hour tour from the closest ski area. Surprise! The wolf is back, the silhouette of the cunning animal seen with two others during a video sequence recorded by the camera. A motivating enough result to set up new photography blinds. When the time comes to head back home, Lionel uses the halo of light from his headlamp to guide the way.