Photographing Deer in the Smoky Mountains

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Photographing deer in any setting takes time and patience. Tennessee’s Smoky Mountains provide the ideal environment for the winsome white-tailed deer. In this video, professional wildlife photographers Doug Gardner and Bill Lea photograph bucks and does in the woods and along the stream beds of the mountain valley. When photographing deer, you will learn to always focus on the deer’s eyes regardless of where it is positioned, how to shoot multiple exposures to achieve the best image, and the thrill of capturing a buck rubbing the velvet off of his horns.

Because the deer sometimes gather in the shadows, Doug and Bill will show you how to wait for that moment of hesitation to click your shutter and capture a sharp image. In high contrast environments like the woods, you want to expose for the highlight areas to avoid burn-out. To capture portraits with your telephoto lens, you want to approach the deer cautiously, speaking softly. Deer are quick to run if they sense a threat. In the Smoky Mountains, the best time to photograph fawns is August when they are most approachable. The goal is to let the deer become comfortable with your presence. Keep in mind that you are the guest in the home of the deer. Photographing deer is not worth it if experience poses a threat to the wildlife.

But deer aren’t the only photographic subject in Cades Cove and the Smoky Mountains. There are wild turkeys, black bear, coyotes, and raccoons. Bill Lea has been photographing deer and other wildlife in Cades Cove for 30 years. He started out fishing as a kid, then traded his rod and reel for a camera, and the cove’s natural setting has felt like home to him ever since. Bill’s specialty is photographing deer. Travel to the Smoky Mountains and learn from the experts.

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See all videos in our Tips & Techniques for Photographing White-Tailed Deer Course: