Book Review: The Master Guide for Wildlife Photographers

by Brendan C. Quigley | September 1, 2005

Bill SillikerBill Silliker, Jr., who passed away in 2003 while walking out to photograph moose, probably said that he never met a moose he didn’t like. He also could have said that he wrote a great book on wildlife photography but he wouldn’t have. He was far too modest. But the photographer, who made a name for himself photographing loons, eagles and moose in his native northeastern United States, put together a valuable book published after his death that’s sure to help novice and not so novice wildlife photographers.

Bill wrapped some amazing images around The Mooseman’s Eight Rules for Wildlife Photography, a regular theme in the book. From preparing to create an image, to critically reviewing it either digitally or on a light table, he breaks down the process of making great images into manageable sections. He provides images that support his text, and that are there to teach you a “how-to” that might not be available through other sources.

One thing that many photographers (including myself) find difficult is stalking or approaching animals to get the best image possible. The Mooseman’s Sixth Rule of Wildlife Photography covers stalking. Bill goes to great lengths to describe some things to keep in mind, including researching your subject, and camouflaging yourself and your camera. Use of stationary photo blinds is discussed, as well as camouflage clothing, leaf netting, and both portable and floating blinds.

Bill covers all the basics with a fresh perspective. He provides a new take on exposure, metering, natural grey cards, light and backgrounds. The Mooseman’s Fifth Rule of Wildlife Photography covers how to meter a scene. He discusses in-depth exposure compensation for difficult scenes; a black bear against the snow is one we all think about, but he also suggests other scenes that we all encounter. For example, consider a bison against the yellow grasses of Yellowstone National Park, or an egret against dark mangrove trees. Additionally, he discusses the “whens and wheres” to shoot, using both food and the animals’ sex drives as key elements in choosing a place and time to set up. Adjusting your exposure depending on the subject, often a difficult prospect for some, has been treated in a way that is readable and understandable. He also covers alternative platforms from which to shoot, as well as the importance of heeding the old Boy Scout motto, “Be Prepared.”

As this book was published fairly recently (2004), the examples Bill used for equipment and pricing are almost as current as most online catalogues. In general, his information is up-to-date (well, as much as it can be in the digital world!), on target and easy to read. Perhaps two of the best things Bill included in this book are the NANPA Principles of Ethical Field Practices and Truth in Captioning statements.

To be sure, we all spend a lot of money on equipment to help us take good pictures, and to me, books are invaluable tools for making better images. Bill’s done a superb job in creating a readable and understandable book that takes new and old photographers alike through the basics of wildlife photography, and more. This is one for the shelf at home, and the occasional trip into the field as a reference.

The Master Guide for Wildlife Photographers and other nature photography books can be purchased via

Author’s note: Bill Silliker, Jr. passed away suddenly on October 13, 2003 from an apparent heart attack. At the time, he was leading a photography group. Bill was doing what he loved to do, in a place where he loved the doing of it. He was a great talent, and he will be terribly missed.

The Master Guide for Wildlife Photographers by Bill Silliker, Jr.

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