Toronto-based wildlife photographer Andrew Budziak has launched a new video series, “Edge of Frame,” focusing on urban wildlife across Canada. The series is made in conjunction with Narcity and will feature six episodes, each focusing on a specific urban critter that calls a Canadian city home.
The first episode features Vancouver’s harbor seals, an aquatic mammal that is a frequent visitor to Vancouver’s busy ports. However, despite the relative commonness of seals in Vancouver, the quest for a brilliant photo required considerable effort.
Urban wildlife photography is an exciting twist on more traditional wildlife photography. Not only does it include unique photographic opportunities, especially for photographers who don’t have easy access to true wilderness, but urban wildlife also presents fresh compositional and narrative opportunities. Urban wildlife photography lets photographers tell exciting stories about how humanity and nature interact.
Budziak tells PetaPixel that urban wildlife is an incredibly challenging and rewarding genre of wildlife photography.
“Urban wildlife is one of the hardest forms of wildlife photography. You are so limited by geography. The spaces in cities where wildlife is active is so tiny compared to the size of that city.”
For Budziak, a “truly great urban wildlife image needs three things: the wildlife, the urban element, and a story. Landing that is so tough.”
Budziak says, “For ‘Edge of Frame,’ I was able to get a few photos that have those elements. This was pretty lucky considering we only had a few days in each city.”
Ethical wildlife photography is critical. For urban wildlife photographers like Budziak, there are additional concerns.
“When I started doing urban wildlife photography, I quickly created a set of rules. This is a unique form of photography, so there really wasn’t a code of ethics. I realized what I was doing was very different from wilderness photography, so I needed different rules,” he says.
“One of my major rules is never place an animal between you and traffic. If the shutter click spooks that animal, they’re heading straight into traffic,” Budziak says. “Another rule is if there’s a crowd, leave.”
Budziak recommends that photographers keen to try urban wildlife photography “go big.” Urban wildlife photography is relatively unexplored, so there’s a lot of creative freedom and chances to make a strong impression with unique photos. For example, “Don’t settle for the raccoon up the tree. Find the raccoon scaling the side of a building at sunset with the cityscape in the background. Blow people’s minds. This is a special art form that deserves epic results.”
To take his urban wildlife photography further, Budziak frequently uses camera traps. He travels with an extensive setup that he often employs near alleys and under bridges. He used to sit in the field all night, waiting for urban wildlife to become active, but that was exhausting. Now he can leave his gear out all night while getting sleep at home. Of course, leaving expensive equipment unattended has its risks.
While making “Edge of Frame,” Budziak has challenged himself more than ever. One of his favorite subjects to photograph is coyotes. However, Budziak chose not to photograph them for the season of “Edge of Frame.” His goal was to photograph new animals in exciting ways. Later this season, viewers will see Budziak photograph urban whales in St. John’s, Newfoundland. “That was wild and new,” he says. “I went big. Really big…That was nuts. And I’m glad I did it.”
Even with hard work and dedication, the results aren’t guaranteed. “Edge of Frame” highlights that aspect of wildlife photography, too. Budziak says, “The idea of really telling the story behind an image was so appealing to me. And it’s not always pretty. I mess up a lot along the way. Things go wrong. That’s the reality of shooting in the field.”
Nonetheless, urban wildlife photography promises to challenge and excite. It’s also a great way to capture unique, distinct wildlife photos unlike many often seen. Budziak’s “Edge of Frame” series will deliver amazing “big” pictures and offer photographers an informative behind-the-scenes look and ways to improve their photography skills.
Image credits: Images courtesy of Andrew Budziak and used with permission