Rockies Insider Guide to outdoor photography with Larry Stanley Part II

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Written by Patrick J. Smith posted on Wednesday, July 14th, 2010

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Education is most important when shooting wild animals.

Larry Stanley has been a professional shutterbug for almost 30 years, capturing everything from weddings to giant grizzly bears. And while snapping his home surroundings in Montana, Stanley has run into his fair share of encounters with hiking adventures and wildlife run ins.

Here’s another Insider with a nature photographer spilling some important tips on surviving as an outdoor photographer in the Rocky Mountains.

Hiking right with camera equipment

Mountain tops are an obvious feat to overcome, but Stanley says it’s worth it to camp out a few days and shoot at high altitude.

“These trips take four to five hours of hiking in the day. You start early in the morning, get there in the middle of the day, and then have to turn around and hike back,” he says. So the trick is to spend a weekend up on the peaks for the most satisfying photo shots.

Stanley also recommends to pack light. One camera, one lens, an extra battery and a couple of cards is all that’s necessary.

“And plan ahead because you never know how long you’ll be out there,” says Stanley. “Don’t forget lunch and plenty of water.”

Stanley admits learning this the hard way, as short hiking trips in the past have lasted longer than expected because shooting conditions were ideal. “I came back down starving and dehydrated,” he says.

Wildlife: Being ready

Being out in the wilderness with the necessary items is key, but so is an alertness for wildlife. Stanley has run ins with moose, black bears, mountain lions and buck.

“I’ve hiked a lot and have only a few really close encounters. Usually it’s black bear and they typically just go away if you don’t startle them,” says Stanley.

Moose are especially dangerous when they have a calf with them, although mountain lions tend to be the most fearful predators.

“I saw a huge mountain lion, about 125 pounds, which is unusual. Usually you don’t see them, they see you because they’re excellent hunters,” says Stanley.

Wildlife: Always bring your camera

The most exciting encounter Stanley’s come across was with a friend during deer hunting season. Animal sounds like snorting and thrashing could be heard nearby, and once Stanley and his friend looked over a ledge they witnessed a vicious buck fight.

“They would back up, charge each other and lock horns. This battle went on for 15 to 20 minutes,” says Stanley. “Had I had a camera I could have had a whole sequence of imagery you don’t see very often!”

Wildlife: Get smart

Although he’s seen a grizzly bear in the wild, along with an impressive roster of other animals, Stanley has never experienced major problems with wildlife encounters. He prides his luck and lack of situations to simply educating himself about the local wildlife.

“A little education goes a long way if you’re going to be out with the wildlife,” says Stanley. “I can’t tell you how many people get gored because they walk out to a buffalo like they’re in a petting zoo.”

“They just don’t know, and that’s the dangerous thing. People should study about where they’ll be,” says Stanley.

As a photographer who as lived close to Yellowstone National Park for 23 years, Stanley is a local who knows his territory and nature as well as the wildlife. is happy to pass along these Insider Tips to help boost and educate the know how in outdoor photographers ready and able to tackle the wild outdoors of Montana.

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