TUCSON, Ariz — It seems like being forced to stay inside during the COVID-19 pandemic has given many a newfound appreciation for the great outdoors.
Thousands of new RV sites are breaking ground, camping gear has been flying off the shelves, and participation in outdoor activities has seen large jumps.
The thirst for a deeper connection to nature has also been seen online, according to Arizona wildlife photographer Michael Osborne.
"I think I've gotten more attention for sure during the pandemic," Osborne said. "I think that's happening across the outdoors world. Kayak sales, tent sales, camper sales, national park attendance and hunting and fishing licenses have all been way up."
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Osborne, who goes by the handle "Michael Outside" on Instagram and YouTube, has shown the thousands online that have watched his videos a more intimate look at Arizona's wildlife.
"With a trail camera, you may have a deer calmly feeding or marking a tree," Osborne said.
"If [the animal] knows you're there, it's going to be cautious and its guard is going to be up. You're seeing a deer, which is awesome, but you're not seeing what deer usually do."
As interest in the natural world keeps increasing, Osborne shared some tips for anyone who may be interested in getting involved or started with wildlife photography in Arizona.
1) Pay attention (seriously)
One of the best ways to get a start in nature photography is to figure out what wild animals are frequently around local neighborhoods.
Osborne says you may be surprised by what you find.
"A lot of people have no idea how much wildlife is around their yard or just down the street at a trail," he said.
"I live in a normal neighborhood in Tucson. I put a trail camera behind my mailbox, and in a week I had coyotes, Gambel's quail, rock squirrels, desert cottontails, and a couple of other species on that camera right away."
This isn't isolated to Osborne's Tucson neighborhood. Wild animals are increasingly found venturing into where people live, according to the Arizona Game and Fish Department's website.
2) Find out what wildlife is out there
While a local wash or patch of foliage may be a surprising hotspot for wild animals, actually learning about the animals who live where the pictures are being taken will offer more insight into how to best photograph them.
"You could be a nerd like me and actually read the little placards on trails," Osborne said with a laugh. "There's actually some good information on there. You'll start building a picture of what lives there, both plants and animals. From there, you can start exploring what you're interested in."
The Grand Canyon State is home to more than 900 species of wildlife, according to the Visit Arizona website.
Numerous wildlife areas, national forests, national parks, and natural areas are just a drive away, each with a different animal community.
"Regardless of how you plan to experience the natural wildlife of our state, Arizona offers a substantial amount of opportunities to learn and explore for all ages," the webpage said. "Just remember to bring a camera!"
3) Explore the areas where animals frequent
Finally, studying the geography of the land where the pictures are being taken will offer insight into where animals most frequently are.
"I look at maps online for things that catch my eye like a water source or what topographically looks like a good travel corridor," Osborne said. "The next step is to plan a day-hike through that area to find the best spot."
Watering holes are a go-to for trail camera users to get good shots. However, looking at the land to see where animals may be geographically forced to move through can also yield amazing opportunities.
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