Photographer and wildlife biologist Roy Toft captures beautiful photos of mountain lions, bobcats, deer and more in his backyard with his perfectly placed trail cameras.
toftwho lives in Ramona, California, is fortunate enough to have photographed mountain lions, mule deer, coyotes, lynx and raccoons — without leaving his property.
He has captured remarkable photos of mountain lions — also known as cougars — an animal notoriously hard to find, but one of the most storied animals in the Golden State.
Toft started setting up cameras on his land near San Diego about eight years ago. Speak with PetaPixelhe explains how the pandemic caused him to invest more in his remote camera system.
Trails cameras come in a number of flavors. Small, cheap ones that generally take bad pictures but produce more viewable video clips, and DSLR setups that are a bit pricey to assemble but very high quality stills produce,” explains Toft.
“Placing and lighting for your ‘DSLR camera trap’ are the two things that can really produce magic and propel your images to spectacular results. I use both setups both professionally and as a full-time wildlife photographer, as well as on my 28-acre property where I live.”
Due to the pandemic, Toft was unable to travel for work, so he invested in several high-end DSLR setups that have subsequently delivered stunning images.
“I have used several small trail cameras over the years, but currently I use Browning Recon Force cameras. I use these exclusively for video clips and also to explore locations for placing my high-quality DSLR camera traps.”
Toft uses Canon 7D and 5D DSLRs and a variety of lenses from Canon, Sigma and Tamron in focal lengths in the 10mm to 20mm range.
“I use a PIR V3 passive motion trigger from Camtraptions to release the camera shutter. For lighting, I use both Nikon SB-26 and SB-28 flash units. Most of my setups have three flash units positioned outside the camera to capture the subject and natural elements such as rocks, trees and vegetation,” says Toft.
He uses handcrafted housings to weatherproof his gear and tailors his supporting hardware to hold cameras and flashes.
“The extra equipment and effort to illuminate the surrounding elements of your scene is crucial to producing the most pleasing images,” adds Toft.
Keep it local
Toft travels for six to seven months each year to lead photography tours to exotic destinations around the world.
“In a typical year I’ll be in Botswana for elephants, lions and leopards… then Brazil for jaguars, Chile for pumas, Costa Rica for breathtaking tropical wildlife and India for snow leopards and tigers. †
Despite his experience shooting in these exotic locations, Toft says it’s really special to capture local California wildlife in his backyard. Mountain lions in particular, Toft has known them in his environment since he was a boy but very rarely saw them due to their shy nature and nocturnal habits.
“With my camera traps I can enjoy and learn so much more about their behavior and daily activities. I am also able to tell and educate my local community about these animals and cultivate an appreciation and respect for the wildlife we still have among us,” he says.
“I’ve always felt that creating a beautiful image is just a small part of what you can do. It’s really about what you do with that image that makes the difference.”
Image Credits: All photos by Roy Toft.