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Hides and Camouflage

In this article I want to explore the use of hides and camouflage, what is available and how to use it, as well as looking what I personally have, and my experiences with it.


I have a mobile hide, a sort of pop up tent, complete with scent control, but hardly ever use it. This is the ideal hide for photographing wild deer, boar, or waiting for kingfisher, or waiting for a scavenger to come and pick on rabbit carcase or the like.  Its not something that you would want to leave in one place for a long time, so its really for those special wildlife projects where you decide in advance exactly where you are going to be, the direction to look and are just going to sit and wait for a period.

If you have a location, that you will be using a lot, then a most substantial hide, perhaps a garden shed, would be more ideal, and we find this type of hide provided for us in many RSPB and other sites, as well as at WWT sites. Often these are still quite a way from the birds. You also have to move a long lower lanes or hedge covered areas to get to and from them.

Vehicles make good hides, even just sitting in a car parked up with the windows open will work, although for more timid creatures a piece of camo material over the windows is ideal.

In the garden a swinging garden seat with a weather cover is quickly accepted, and if you take off the swinging seat, you have an ideal hide when you want one. I have found two slight problems with this, partridges decided it was  a good roost, and decided to move in, and on one occasion badgers had become so familiar with it that they to were using it as a hide so on occasions I have ended up sharing it with some of the creatures for a bit.

Another hide I have is a bag I made. This started out as a long length, around 15 feet of leaf cut camo material, its a sort of partly stamped out material, so I suppose you could describe it as a bit like net with leaf pieces, when you smooth it down it looked like a solid piece of material. So when you are behind it you can see through, its brown and green. I folded this in half to form a bag over 7 foot long, but rather than sew down the seams I used on one side a long piece of velcro, on the other side I used a range of shorter velcro pieces, this allows sections to be opened at any point for a lens to be put through. If I stand out in the open in this its likely wildlife will still spot me, but when I stand next to a bush or tree, I become part of it. As I can split it along the side, I am also able to lay on the ground and use it to cover me. Its very light and folds up into next to no space so fits easily in the front pocket with other items of my larger camera bag.

A Flycather

Camouflage outfits

You could spend a fortune on the 'in design' shooting style camo kit, or get as much effect by choosing clothes with generally darker colourers. A face net, hat and maybe gloves assists you to be less visible.

I bought, on eBay, a second hand German army motor cyclists camo outfit, this is a pair of trousers and a jacket that are zipped together, and have extra padded pieces with protectors  on the elbows and  knees etc. The advantage is that its rugged, and ideal for crawling around while looking for wildlife, add a face net, and hat, and I could scare nearly anyone. In theory this outfit should be ideal for creeping up on deer, wild boar and more, however its clear that birds can see it, and they tend to treat it as a potential predator and move in closer to take a look, It maybe that its still person shaped, or perhaps the colours we see are different to those the birds see. This is also quite a bulky thing to carry around.

I haven't done a direct comparison between the outfit and the camo bag, my feeling is that the bag is better, as air goes through it and you can see through it, you don't 'boil in the bag' while with the outfit it gets rather warm after a while.

When one of my children was young they had an army style dressing up outfit, I cut off one of the legs of this to form a tube I can put my telephoto lens through. A section of the jacket from the outfit I cut a piece of material that goes over my camera body and hands.

The other item I have is a camouflaged groundsheet, in theory I could hide behind or under it, but usually I use it as a water proof base and split the bag to go over the top. The groundsheet is also small enough to carry all the time amongst the items in the front pocket of my larger camera bag.

  • Many animals and birds become tolerant to you being present
  • Existing familiar items may make a hide
  • Vehicles are good hides
  • Specialist hides are useful, although in practice I didn't use one often
  • Dark or earth colours are sensible as you blend in
  • You need a hat or some means to hide your face and head
  • Camo clothing may not be as effective was you think
  • Disrupting your body shape is as important as colours, so perhaps a bag is better than a suit
  • Camo leaf material is useful ether as a length or to make a bag
  • You need to be able to cover your camera and hands
  • It get hot in many things
  • You need to be able to change direction and ideally move if the need arises
  • Its yet another thing to carry so weight and size is relevant.

   A Bird of Prey

See Also

Wildlife photography

Animal Behaviour

Equipment suitable for wildlife photography

General tips on photographing wildlife

Introducing Birds

Where to Photograph UK Wild Birds

Squirrels and How to Photograph Them

Where to photograph Red Squirrels


By: Keith Park Section: Key:

Page Ref: hides_and_camouflage

Topic: Wildlife Last Updated: 03/2010

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