Is Wildlife Getting More Photogenic Or Are Trail Cams Really That Good?

Increasingly accessible tech has allowed outdoors photographers to turn trail cams into an art form.

a coyote in the snow
A coyote. Photo by Ethan Eisenhaur
By Will Grunewald
From our April 2023 Animals issue

Early in the pandemic, Bangor Daily News staffers realized that reader-submitted trail-cam photos and videos they posted online were drawing eyeballs. “People were spending a lot of time indoors, and I think the trail cameras were a great escape,” features editor Lindsay Putnam says. “They give you the chance to see animals interacting in nature with no humans around.” Since then, some 200 videos (bobcat on the hunt, moose calf splashing in pond) and photos (owl swooping at skunk, fox chewing on dog toy) have hit the BDN website. In 2022, across the whole site, two of the year’s top-five stories were a close-up of a mystery creature and the subsequent reveal (it was a moose, shot from the posterior).

Even a decade ago, good trail-cam visuals were rare. Grainy images were useful mostly for hunters tracking game. Video resolution has much improved, though, and increasingly accessible tech has allowed outdoors photographers like Ethan Eisenhaur (@eisenhaur_photography to his 7,500 Instagram followers) to turn trail cams into an art form. In the western Maine mountains, he has five rigs, each with a DSLR camera in a weatherproof case, wirelessly paired flashes, and a motion sensor. Like any photographer, he considers background, lighting, and framing — but he does so in the absence of his subject. “Before, I could always figure out where the animals would be,” he says. “Getting there at the same time was the hard part.”

April 2024, Down East Magazine

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