Roeselien Raimond is a Netherlands-based Dutch photographer who is fascinated by both nature and creativity. After working as an art therapist, she shifted her focus and became a professional web designer. In 2009, she won a semi-professional camera in a photo contest, which encouraged her to take photography more seriously. Since then, her work has published in several well-known international magazines. These days, she expresses her love of nature through writing, painting, and photography.
If you’ve seen her majestic photos of foxes in the wild, you’re probably wondering how she does it. In this story, she shares her secrets on how to photograph these shy, elusive, and nimble creatures. Read on and be inspired!
How To Photograph Foxes
by Roeselien Raimond
1. Get to Know Your Subject
Until five years ago, all I had ever seen of a fox was a glimpse of a red tail, rapidly disappearing from sight. I wanted to get to know the owner of this gorgeous plushy tail so badly, but how? And that’s when I started my “fox study”. I asked myself questions like:
- Where do foxes live?
- What are their daily routines?
- Which are their enemies and what do they prey upon?
- Where do they hunt?
- Where to they hide when it rains?
- When do they bring up their youngsters, where and how?
The thing that struck me the most, is that apparently there is no such a thing as “The Fox”. Every fox has its own character, and the one trait they share most in common is their unpredictability.
Even after years of studying them, it’s still hard to find regular patterns. While other species may have more regular routines, foxes always seem to surprise me. You never know what to expect, and this is exactly what keeps me coming back for more. Gradually, I was able to distinguish between individual foxes and recognize them by their respective looks and habits. This helped me identify certain behaviors and to anticipate what might happen next—invaluable knowledge to a photographer!
When it comes to foxes, always take a look over your shoulder. Foxes just love to sneak up from behind.
2. Throw Away that Tripod and Bite Some Dust
Foxes are fast and fickle. By the time you have that tripod set up, they will have disappeared. Of course, a tripod is a must in some situations, but when it comes to photographing foxes, the costs exceed the benefits.
In addition, a low point-of-view will result in a more intimate image. The lower, the better. If you really want to shoot foxes, lose the tripod, get low, and bite some dust!
Having said that, I use a lightweight 300 mm F4.0 lens which allows me to be more flexible and mobile. Of course, shooting a handheld with a 500mm lens is another story.
My advice on this: lose the 500mm as well.
3. What Does the Fox Say? Learn to Speak Fox Language
Waggling tail. Flat ears. Arched back. These are all signals that something interesting is about to happen, and that you’d better be prepared for some action. Foxes give away many telltale hints that will help you capture these special moments.
By learning to read this body language, you will soon begin to recognize when they are in a hunting mood—ready pounce on a mouse. Or when they are in for a good ol’ grooming session, giving you the chance to get your settings right.
4. Know Your Gear
I know I’m stating the obvious here, but every extra second you spend looking at and adjusting your settings could lose you that Once-in-a-Lifetime-shot. Immerse yourself earlier in learning the possibilities and limitations of your gear, and you’ll be rewarded.
I carry and use a Canon 5D Mark III, that handles high ISO pretty good. It’s a plus when you like to work without a tripod under difficult light circumstances. For lens, I mostly use Canon 300mm F4.0 lens, which is relatively light and small. It enhances the agility.
As soon as operating your camera has become second nature, you can focus all your attention on a perfect backdrop and a flawless composition, instead of completely boring stuff like ISO, Aperture and Shutter Speed.
Let your camera work for you, so you can focus on the fox.
5. Do As the Fox Does: Be Opportunistic
Too many times, I’ve heard people say that a wild animal is supposed to fear humans—that this is natural. Is it? For a long time we thought foxes to be nocturnal. We now know that they only hunt at night because we hunt by day—we hunt them.
We’ve made them nocturnal.
We have always been hunting foxes, and we’ve given them a reason to be scared.
But if we took away this reason, would they have feared humans in the first place? So what actually is “natural”? For me, it is natural when animals and humans can live in harmony. This might sound hopelessly idealistic, but in fact, this is already happening in many countries.
Whether by choice or design, foxes live in cities where they will have to co-exist with people in one way or another. Foxes understand that people can be useful to them. Maybe we photographers should take an example from their opportunism. A fox that is accustomed to people in its environment, is less likely to run away. Which gives us the opportunity to observe these fascinating creatures up close.
6. Feed The Fox?
There is much debate on the ethics of luring foxes with bait, making it something of a controversial subject. Some photographers like to use bait, while others state that feeding animals isn’t natural; therefore, it’s not good. But what about feeding the birds in our garden or squirrels in the park?
To put it plainly, there is a very thin line between both schools of thought, which makes it very difficult if not impossible to come up with a general consensus. It’s probably best just to think for yourself if what you’re doing is possibly going to harm the animal now, or in the long run. You might also want to ask yourself whether you will enjoy pictures of a munching fox.
I personally don’t.
7. Give ‘em Some Space
When I first began fox photography, my goal was to get as close to them as possible, simply because of this challenge: To capture an image of a shy animal.
Ironically, as I look back at my older photos now, the foxes seem almost imprisoned in these too-tight frames. I still like close-ups today, but I try to leave some more room for the fox to breathe.
The environment is oftentimes a part of the story, and can add a lot of atmosphere to a picture. If you pay attention to the natural surroundings of the fox, and look for a beautiful, non-distracting backdrop, your photo may become much more interesting.
8. Follow the Fox
Some photographers like to build outdoor studios, and try to maneuver an animal onto their stage. My personal preference is more the other way around: follow the fox.
A fox is a very interesting animal that engages in a wide range of behaviors: Playing, sleeping, sitting, running, swimming, hunting, jumping, mating, fighting, nurturing, staring, hugging, hiding, rolling, digging, crouching, stretching, grooming, and many many more.
You can’t make a fox do most of these things, but if you are very patient, you can let them do as they will, delighting and surprising you along the way!
9. Infiltrate A Fox Camp and Blend In
A tip I once heard was to use camouflage clothing and odorless soap! Oh well.
Believe me: you don’t fool a fox. He sees and smells you long before you can trace him, despite your odorless soap or cool green uniform.
They know you are there, but if you don’t disturb them, they might “forget” about you, and just accept you as a part of the natural world. And if you are lucky, the fox will allow you to witness many exciting, moving, and simply beautiful moments of its life.
10. Love Your Subject
At the risk of sounding really cheesy—whatever you do, do it with passion.
It’s always good to be inspired by others, but I firmly believe that the best photos are made by the grace of true love for your subject. Work from the heart with respect for your subject, and it will show.
Bonus Tip: Foxes and Snow
When people see my photos of foxes in the snow, they often remark that these conditions must have been so challenging for the poor fox. Perhaps they were, but remember that the fox has a nice warm fur coat, and the poor photographer usually hasn’t—and shouldn’t!
Photographing foxes in the snow isn’t so much about composition and focus.
You will be plowing through the snow, snow showers blinding your sight, and the ice-cold ground freezing your toes. While you are lying motionless in the snow, patiently waiting for a fox to show up, sneaky little snowflakes will find any bare spot on your body to slowly cool you down.
So it’s about finding that fox before you freeze to death.
If you have not taken any sufficient measures, a fox may do the finest double back flips in front of you, but you won’t be able to capture them, because of your frozen fingers.
So my advice is: Dress like the Michelin Man, including three pairs of pants, and wear moon boots. You won’t win a beauty contests, and bending becomes quite a challenge. But at least you will have your fox in the snow shot, it will all be worth it in the end!
Browse more images of fantastic foxes.
Do you have any personal photography tips and tutorials you’d like to share? We’d love to hear them!