How do you keep your composure when this happens?

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abby
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How do you keep your composure when this happens?

Postby abby » Thu Oct 11, 2007 7:35 pm

Hi all,
On my recent trip to VT, we stayed overnight one night in New Hampshire. Now, I know this is a VT forum, and this question is about pictures I took in New hampshire, but these pictures could just have easily been taken somewhere in VT.

We came across this black bear in Franconia NH. He was literally within a few feet of our truck. My pictures did not come out good and I am kicking myself in the butt for it. I figure there are a couple of reasons why my pictures are not good. Number one, I was so nervous and excited my hands were shaking. Number two, each time I went to take his picture he would move and it caused blur. In all of my excitement, everything I have learned about photography went out the window. I never changed the settings on my camera to compensate. Number three, the position he was in, I was shooting into the sun.

Here he is. This is probably the best picture I got of him:

Image

After this picture, he walked into the woods. My husband backed the truck up and turned off the motor. We could see the bear through the brush and he started coming towards us. Here he is again:

Image

After a couple of minutes, he suddenly climbed a tree about 10 feet away from us. I can't believe how fast he went up the tree:
Image

This next picture shows him up in the tree. I was literally hanging my head out the window of the truck taking pictures of a bear right above my head. It was one of those "oh my God I can't believe this is happening" moments. He was so close I could actually hear him chewing the leaves:

Image

He then climbed down the tree and said goodbye to us and went off to parts unknown.

So, my question is, how do you keep your composure at times like this? What advice do you have for me that could have made these pictures better, if any?

Quality aside, I hope you enjoyed my pictures and my story. I was really lucky last week with the wildlife.

Abby (Carol)


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Postby Andy » Fri Oct 12, 2007 7:48 am

Carol: First of all, I want to point out that you are simply wrong about this photo. This opportunity would not happen in Vermont. Bears are essentially conservative animals who only hang out in NH -- they would never cross over into Vermont -- too liberal!!

Seriously, I think the best answer to your question is probably experience with your "gear" and always being ready for the opportunity (which I know from personal experience--is more easily said than done).

I suspect that most of the really good wildlife photos you see published are actually the product of a lot of hard work and planning. It has been reasonably rare during my years to happen upon certain wildlife (notably bears, moose and wolves) without going out West. The populations of all of these critters have increased significantly in just the last several years. When I lived in Vermont, it wasn't likely you would see a Moose, and not real likely that you spot a bear in inhabited areas. That has changed (it has in other states, too -- I saw a momma and her two cubs cross the road in front of me just last weekend in the early morning twilight in Virginia--it was only the second time I have ever seen a bear in the wild and have spent most of my life in either Northern Michigan or Northern VT). Most of the photogs who get really good shots do their biology research. They know their subjects habitat and habits. They try to be in the right place in the right light.

Considering the elements you were struggling with -- less than ideal lighting, a point and shot camera, shooting from a car and your adrenaline -- you got some pretty good shots (I have a buddy who has all the gear and was in Grand Teton last year and stumbled on a bear and with fancy DSLR and tripod, still didn't get the result you got. The bear was also brown, he's probably lucky he didn't turn into a meal, but thats another story :) .

I find that when I am doing a lot of shooting and have kind of thought things out prior to leaving the house, I do better in these situations. When the camera sits in the bag and gathers dust, so does my memory and facility with the use of the gear. That's what prompts my know your gear statement.

I also think it is important to review and critique your work afterward. What did I do that I don't like? What would/could I have done in the circumstance to make a better photo? And then commit those things to your memory bank so that they will be there the next time the opportunity presents itself.

On some of the photography boards I frequent there is always a tension between trying to discuss photography and the things that matter and "gear." There is a common saying that Ansel Adams could have gotten great results with a pinhole camera. While on a philosophical level, that is true, it isn't really a practically useful observation. Our gear is our "tools." I cannot go to Sears and spend $5,000 on tools and be guaranteed to build a nice house. But good tools are necessary and often make the job easier. So another thing to think about is whether your "gear" suits the type of photography you are trying to get. For "serious" wildlife photography, if that becomes a passion, most photographers will move to the SLR/DSLR system for a number of reasons.

Hope this stimulates some discussion. For now I'll say, I have all the gear, 30 years of experience, some formal training, and I STILL don't have a bear photo like yours! Pretty cool!
Andy

If it sounds too good to be true, its probably . . . .

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Postby autzig » Fri Oct 12, 2007 8:23 am

To my dismay, I learned that many wildlife photos really aren't "wildlife". The great photos you see published are taken at wildlife ranches where these captive animals are made available to photographers who have had all kinds of time to prepare their cameras. There are no surprises. Triple D in Montana is one well known provider of these animals. They even rent their animals to people who produce National Geographic and Wild Kingdom shows.

You can take a photo workshops from organizations like Rocky Mountain School of Photography if you want.

I did a workshop this summer with an instructor who shoots wildlife almost exclusively. He told me how they throw out cod heads to capture Bald Eagles. To his credit, he also knows how to find wildlife. Animals frequent the same places all the time, so if you know where an animal was today, it will probably be there again tomorrow.

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Postby Andy » Fri Oct 12, 2007 8:59 am

I have a rather stunning photo of a Great Horned owl perched on a branch with fall foliage in the background. It was taken at a Wildlife rehab center in Southwestern Michigan. The branch is actually a stump cut down with a chainsaw as a prop. The owl has leather jesses (sp?). I used my 300mm lens and was very surprised at how close I had to get to make a frame-filling photo (I was as close as 8-10 feet). The REAL ones taken in the wild take a fair amount of skill (not photography skill-- but wildlife and perhaps "hunting" skill) to get. My "captive" shooting experience gave me greatly increased success for folks like John Shaw and Moose Peterson, who have taken them in the wild.

My sense of morality says that when an animal is "captive" the photographer should disclose that. There has been more than one "raging" debate on this topic.
Andy

If it sounds too good to be true, its probably . . . .

abby
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Postby abby » Fri Oct 12, 2007 9:39 am

Hi Andy,
Thanks for your reply. I have been visiting VT on a frequent basis for over 10 years now, and I have never seen so much wildlife as I did in the 7 day period I spent up there last week. I was figuring it was for one of a couple of reasons. Number one, the wildlife Gods were shining down on me and granted me some incredible luck. Number two, I was wondering if the weather/climate could have anything to do with it. It has been such an unusually warm fall. Normally I am up there wearing big comfy sweaters this time of year, but last week I was wearing t-shirts and capris pants every day with the temps. near 80 degrees. Also, I was wondering if the wildlife has some instincts about the winter and could this be a sign that we are going to have a bad winter season?

It was probably just luck. In 7 days I got some pretty impressive (for my standards) pictures of moose, bear, deer, a fox ran right in front of our truck into a field but he was running at such a high rate of speed I didn't have the chance to photograph him.

Whenever this chipmunk ran up to me to strike a pose, I was really thinking the wildlife Gods were shining down on me. It was hysterical. He actually ran up to me, stood up so I could take his picture, and then said goodbye and ran away:

Image

Here he was just before he came up to pose:
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He was just too cute. I know these aren't the best quality pictures (blown highlights, purple fringing) but they were such fun shots and I just couldn't believe how the wildlife was behaving this week. I felt so lucky.

It must have been quite a sight when you saw the mama bear with her cubs last week. I would have loved to have seen that as well.

Thanks again for your response. I do have to consider upgrading my camera and I'm sure I will at some point. I just am not confident enough I think with my photography skills and the thoughts of me with a DSLR is very intimidating for some reason. I just don't feel "ready" if that makes any sense.

Carol

abby
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Thanks Al

Postby abby » Fri Oct 12, 2007 9:49 am

Hi Al,
Thanks for your reply. That is such a crazy story about throwing the fish heads out to photograph the birds, but it sure makes sense.
I can picture me now with a bucket of dead fish heads.....my husband already thinks I am crazy and going over the edge with my photography obsession....LOL........You have to stop putting these thoughts into my head because I'm afraid of what I will do at this point to get a good picture.

But seriously though, that is really interesting how the professionals get such good photos.

I totally agee with what you said about the habits of these animals. We frequently see moose in the same spot up in Bloomfield VT. I like to take a ride up there in the summer after dinner and it's always such a thrill on the nights that we find them.

Carol

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Postby Aspen » Wed Oct 17, 2007 11:16 pm

Abby, here I am browsing around in the Vermont Photograhy Forum even after our trip to Vermont has come and gone! I guess it all comes down to just wishing we were still up there! Anyway, came across your pictures of the bear. Here you are inquiring how you might improve photograhing it and here I am admiring the rare opportunity you were able to capture up close of a bear in the wild! For all it's worth, you captured quite an experience and have neat pictures to document that! Your pictures are great! Okay, Andy, I know my husband and you will say, :roll: Aspen, what do you know!!? about photography?? I know I love the fact she captured the rare moment! I especially love the pictures of the bear in its actual habitat! My husband is an avid photographer (glad to know he is not alone) I often have to remind him to enjoy the scenery such as our discovering a moose in a pond. It was so beautiful! By the time he got his camera, the moose had moved on and was crossing the road. I have a lasting picture of the moose in the pond, his actual pictures show the moose crossing the road. So, bottom line is to enjoy what you see and capture what opportunity permits. You had a beary nice opportunity Abby!!

abby
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Postby abby » Thu Oct 18, 2007 6:24 am

Hi Aspen
Thanks for your comments. I understand what you are saying. I consider myself so lucky to have been able to experience that whole "bear" experience. That memory is one that will be with me forever. In fact, I think my family and coworkers are sick of hearing my bear story......everytime someone asks me how was my trip.....I get all excited and have to go into detail about the whole thing. :)

BUT, as a photographer-wanna-be, I just wish the actual pictures came out better. Andy, your husband, and every other avid photographer know what I mean by that, as you yourself said.

I'm glad you enjoyed my bear story!
Carol (Abby)

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Postby Andy » Thu Oct 18, 2007 7:27 am

Aspen: Actually, I couldn't agree with you more. Unfortunately, I was in Virginia when I should have been in Vermont this fall :) . I had the rare opportunity early one morning to see a mother and her two cubs and to watch 3 deer fighting over one doe. In neither case, could I have effectively gotten a decent photo. It was very early twilight and its the memories that I will have.

I think I said this already, but once you start north of 50, you repeat yourself alot (so my children tell me anyway), but the wildlife shots that you see on magazine covers and for sale in the gift shops are one of two things: either a lot of prior work discovering the habitat and habits of the animal and then being their with you equipment already set up; or at those wildlife ranches Al was talking about. Occasionally, we all get really lucky and have one "pose" for us, but most often, we get the EXACT result your husband had. We are scrambling around for our gear and by the time we are ready, the moment is gone.

Actually, one of the things Carol does really well in all her photographs is something that is a pet peeve of mine. I see a lot of published shots of animals who appear to have no eyes. To me, that just doesn't make the shot. Eyes do. On almost every one of her shots, she get the eyes in focus and properly exposed. With all living creatures, its usually the eyes our eyes are first drawn to.
Andy

If it sounds too good to be true, its probably . . . .

abby
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Postby abby » Thu Oct 18, 2007 1:56 pm

Hi Andy,
Well, I haven't hit the big five-o yet, and I find I am doing some pretty strange things myself. :roll: I am starting to scare myself!!!

Thanks for the nice comment. I appreciate it.
Carol



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