Wildlife Photography: Focusing on My Feet to Get Award-Winning Shots - by Lisa Ballard

December 08, 2020

“You’re a mother!” fretted my trekking partner, sitting on my legs. Her weight kept me from tumbling off a 500-foot cliff in Ethiopia’s Simien Mountains while I focused my camera on a walia ibex. The 200-pound ibex lounged in the sun on a skinny shelf about half-way down the wall of rock. My son was 10 years old at the time.

In retrospect, perhaps that wasn’t my smartest move in the mountains. At least my feet were shielded from the sharp, volcanic outcroppings in my LOWA Renegades. And I got the shot, which is as rare as a walia ibex. Endemic only to the Simien Mountains, biologists estimate only 500 walia ibex remain.

To be successful as a wildlife photographer, you need to go to wild places.

Sometimes that step outside is benign, like photographing a bugling bull elk surrounded by his harem in Rocky Mountain National Park. I’ve photographed countless elk in both Rocky Mountain National as well as Yellowstone.

By hiking away from the road, I’ve had the opportunity to shoot elk sparring in the snow, cresting a dramatic ridgeline, or peering past the trunk of a tree in the timber – photos that the average person never gets.

Those are the easy shots.

Then there’s the editor who needs a mountain goat shot in a specific location, and “it would sure be nice if the goat was doing something”.

Photos like that require shouldering a heavy pack loaded with camping and camera gear and humping it several miles into the backcountry.

For those outings, I protect and support my feet with LOWA Mauria GTX Ws backpacking boots.

I’ve been a professional photographer for over 25 years.

Capturing images of wildlife, beautiful scenics, wildflowers and people in the outdoors are my specialties.

I’ve photographed polar bears on Hudson Bay, bat-eared foxes in South Africa, leopards lounging in acacia trees in Tanzania, and Andean condors in Chile, to name a few of the many opportunities I’ve had to take photos.

Some friends say I’m lucky, but success as a photographer is not luck. It takes the ability to get the shot and get to the shot, and that means having the right footwear.