Stalking Desert Lizards

September 23, 2014  •  Leave a Comment

During my trip to the Eastern Sierra earlier this summer, I had a chance to learn a bit about stalking and photographing lizards. Like most wildlife, lizards don’t like humans or other possible predators to get too close.  They have a “circle of fear” or “circle of tolerance” and as a photographer, you have to figure out how close you can get before spooking your photographic subject.

Successful lizard photography takes patience and a good spotter.  I had a good spotter, Marlene Planck, and a certain amount of patience, given that it was about 90˚ in the direct sun.  We drove down back roads  near Bishop, California, where Marlene had seen lizards on previous trips and she scanned the rocky hillsides for lizards.  Once found, I had to stalk the lizards by maneuvering myself and my unwieldy camera gear slowly closer to them, taking photographs every few steps until I discovered what my subject’s circle of tolerance was.  When the lizard scampered off into a crevice in the rocks, I knew I was too close.

At this point, I would back off a few feet and wait for the lizard to emerge again and then repeat the process.  

In the few days I had to learn the technique I was able to photograph three species of lizards:  Yellow-backed spiny lizard, Collared lizard, and a species of Zebra-tailed lizard.  The Zebra-tailed lizards were the smallest and the most skittish, and therefore I was least successful with them.

Anyway, here are some of the results of my stalking.  I look forward to more opportunities to study and photograph these elusive creatures.

Yellow-backed Spiny Lizard (Sceloporus uniformis)

Collared lizard (Crotophytus collaris

Zebra-tailed Lizard (Callisaurus draconoides) molting its old skin

More images from the Eastern Sierra are here, including more lizards.


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