5 Steps to Overcoming Your Fears in the Wild

by Michael Greene  – Wild Moments 

Let’s face it – taking pictures in the wild can be an intimidating experience. Whether you have a fear of heights, tight spaces, wild animals, lightening, or even the dark there are many natural hazards that one has to consider before venturing out into the wild. Whether you are on a photo workshop or planning a more autonomous photographic excursion overcoming your fears can play a big role in improving your photography.

1.    Embrace Your Fear – As human beings, we are hard wired for fear. It’s part of our genetic DNA.  It’s a physiological safety mechanism our body uses to tell us of potential danger or uncertainty in an important situation.  Fear in and of itself is not a bad thing. It’s our mental approach of how we deal with it that usually needs to change. Learn to embrace your fear by working alongside of it is the first step in overcoming your obstacles.

Working in tight spots in Lower Antelope
Working in tight spots in Lower Antelope
 2.    Respect Mother Nature – Make no mistake, there is healthy fear and unhealthy fear. Mother nature deserves respect. She can be dangerous and full of uncertainty. Even in a controlled group situation unexpected things can happen.  However, that doesn’t mean we make mountains out of mole hills. It does mean that we approach each trip with a healthy respect for the environment. For instance, we don’t haphazardly wander down a trail into the Grand Canyon in the middle of summer without bringing enough water.

Open up your photo possibilities by overcoming your fears

3.    Put It In Proper Perspective – Realistically assessing the situation helps remove the uncertainty. What are the chances it’s going to happen?  If you are dealing with a fear of heights, maybe you know for sure that you are going to experience your fear like walking on a narrow section of trail at the Grand Canyon. The next question should be…how long of a section? Is it a ¼ mile or 20 feet? How many people travel on this trail. Is it realistically safe? If you are dealing with a fear of snakes… think candidly regarding the chances that you will see a snake much less step on one.

Stepped on an ant hill making this image.
4.    Educate Yourself – Education and awareness is a useful tool in overcoming fear. Other people have already experienced and overcome whatever it is that is driving your fear. There is a plethora of information online or even at your local library. Read about other peoples’ experiences. Whether they are survival stories, recounts of animal attacks, or even trip reports the information is available to help you prepare yourself for whatever it is you are facing. For instance, know the time of day and seasons where snakes are more active. Learn about the topography they live and how to safely travel over it. Learn about the different species of snakes, which ones are venomous and more aggressive.

An isolated steep climb down near Winslow, AZ
An isolated steep climb down near Winslow, AZ

5.    Know That It Gets Better – You’ve embraced your fear to work alongside of it. You have a healthy respect for your environment. You’ve put your fear in proper perspective and realistically assessed your potential future situation. You’ve educated yourself on possible solutions to the problem. Now you can confidently approach your work in the field knowing you’ve prepared for the problem and each time you experience and overcome it; it will be that much easier the next time! 

Following these simple steps should help you overcome your fears and thus improve your photography. You’ll be more mentally focused, relaxed and be able to travel to places that before you could only dream of. Happy shooting!

 Michael Greene is a nature photographer based in Arizona.  He has been a member of Arizona Highways Photo Workshops trip leading staff since 2008.  To view Michael’s work visit WildMoments.net