Adventures in Photography: Turkeys

by Greg Lessard

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Adventures in Photography: Turkeys
Photographing wildlife can be one of the most challenging and rewarding adventures in photography. The challenge includes lugging many pounds of camera equipment through forests, across streams, and up daunting hills. Sitting still for a painfully long time can make anyone’s joints ache. The elements and the biting bugs can also contribute to a good time. However, the thrill of spotting a wild animal makes all of the effort worthwhile.
Sometimes you get lucky. Often, wildlife can be spotted from the road. This allows you to use your car as a blind. Popping your camera out the window or through the sunroof often allows you to photograph an animal while keeping a safe distance. This in turn allows the animal to remain calm and you can get more photos.
Last spring, I was fortunate to spot a flock of turkeys while driving along Thompson St., in Middleboro. I had seen the turkeys in the area and I was keeping an eye out for them. Once I found them, I safely parked my car on the side of the road. Unfortunately, I had to park on the opposite side of the street, so I could not use my car as a blind.

I quietly exited the car and snuck across the street to hide behind a stone wall. The locals must have wondered what the crazy guy with the camera was up to. I was able to take a few shots, but I was too far away for a great shot. I moved to the edge of the stone wall and slowly crept into the field, snapping a shot every few feet. Fortunately, there were two toms vying for the attention of the females. This allowed me to get fifteen feet closer. I settled down and took some more shots.
I was still over 50 yards away. As I tried to edge myself even closer, I heard the strangest high pitch call from behind me. All of the action in front of me stopped as the turkeys looked at the stranger encroaching upon their gathering. Then, the lone sentry sitting in the tree above me called again. Twenty more turkeys flew into the field from behind me. Once they all had landed, the sentry gave me a sly look and joined them on their exodus into the forest. Within seconds they were all gone. I had been outsmarted by a turkey.
Fortunately I got the shot! Happy Thanksgiving!

This Month’s Tip:
Learn everything you can about your intended subject. Know what the animal likes to eat, where it is likely to be, and when it is likely to be there. Carefully observe its habits. The more you know, the better your odds of making a great shot. Be patient and carry the longest lens you can afford. A 300 mm lens is bare minimum for serious wildlife photography. For this photograph, I used a 500 mm lens and I still had to crop it!
Greg Lessard is a professional nature photographer. To view more of his photographs, visit his website at