I don’t consider myself to be a wildlife photographer. My approach to wildlife is primarily as an aspect of the landscape I photograph; a compositional element to be considered holistically in the environment and image I’m shooting. Periodically, however, I run into situations in which the wildlife is the center of focus, and like any photographer should, try to take advantage of the situation nature provides.
While photographing near the Long Pier in Redington Beach, FL, I was focused on the pilings and incoming waves under the pier. To the side, shore birds vied for a quick meal as several fisherman netted baitfish. As this particular heron passed in front of me, I realized an interesting shot could occur if I timed the heron at the apex of the pilings. I had my wife move slowly on the beach toward the heron to move the bird back under the pier. I had no idea the heron would stop, and pose, at the perfect point.
A late afternoon shoot at Wall Springs Park in Palm Harbor, FL continued as the full moon rose. I watched this heron for some time in the hunt for fish. The heron seemed to stand in the darkness around the moon’s reflection – I assume while waiting for fish to be attracted to the light of the reflection. Periodically, the heron would stalk closer to the lighted area and then strike for fish. As the moon rose higher in the sky, the reflection and the heron moved closer. This image was captured in darkness with only the moon as a light source. My goal was a simple, tight composition that linked three elements – the heron, the moon, and the deep blue color that ties them together. The heron cooperated by remaining motionless. I only wish the heron had faced the moon…and my wife drew the line over getting into the boggy water to change the bird’s direction. Go figure!
I visited the Weedon Island Preserve in St. Petersburg, FL, with the intent of photographing the setting moon. After moonset, I moved to an observation tower hoping for decent sunrise color and found an almost cloudless sky. I also found an osprey perched on a dead pole within 50 yards of the tower. I realized I might get an angle that allowed me to photograph the bird against the rising sun. Like the previous image, my goal was a simple composition. I couldn’t quite get the position, but was able to photograph the bird against some great golden color just prior to the sun breaching the horizon. The osprey occupied the perch, shifting only slightly, for almost 40 minutes – I assume in anticipation of the sunrise. Almost immediately after the sun was up, the bird flapped a few times – perhaps to acknowledge the beautiful morning – and departed.
As I entered Colorado National Monument in Grand Junction, CO, while on an extended trip several years ago, the Ranger at the entry mentioned a herd of Bighorn sheep a few miles up the park road. I spent about an hour photographing this Bighorn lamb attempt to scale the cliff to reach the adult female on the ridge above. The lamb repeatedly sprinted and leaped as far up the cliff as possible and then just as repeatedly failed to make the climb to the top. The lamb then turned, paused for a second, and then leaped off the cliff to the safe area below. After about an hour of these frustrating attempts, the lamb wandered down the ridgeline to a group of adults feeding below.
While returning from a hike at Mount Rainier National Park near Paradise, WA, I encountered this young bear feeding on berries along the trail. I sat and watched for some time as the bear worked the ridge. At one point, the bear approached a small tree on the edge of the ridge and did what bear’s supposedly do with trees – and had a nice scratch. The challenging light was offset by the fascinating behavior.