Actually, the animals you see below are not old, I am sharing old pictures of wild animals, although if any of them are still alive, they would indeed be old animals.
I’ve shared a lot of pictures of this Red Fox. I went on to make better pictures of other foxes but this female was the first fox that I was able to spend a lot of time with. Here’s to you little lady, you kicked off three straight years of repeated photography with multiple families.
I made this shot of a winter plumage Brown Pelican in early 2006, while on the Gulf Coast of Texas. The two days I spent in this location were almost all spent under overcast conditions and a light rain. Those brief moments when things brightened up allowed me to capture a different mood in the images.
When I traveled, I made pictures regardless of the weather. When you are away from home and you may never see that place, or those animals again, you need to “make hay when the sun shines”….so to speak.
Is there still an interest in simple portraits (like above) of wild animals, or are they not spectacular enough? I’m not sure, but simple portraits do take us inside the pensive world of a solitaire animal in a way that other images do not. In some ways it humanizes them by making them seem reflective in their very nature.
Several days later I spent a day and a half cruising the always productive Bosque del Apache NWR in New Mexico. This little Greater Roadrunner (little, greater?) was the second of this species on the trip, but the only shots I have ever made of a Roadrunner running down a road. In this case the road was a dirt trail in Bosque right next to a wetland.
There are profile portraits and then there are profile portraits. This is a true side view. I spotted this Leopard Frog on the paved roadway on the auto trail in Horicon Marsh NWR in Wisconsin. I stopped my car, got out, equipment in hand, dropped my tripod to its lowest level, fired off a few and then gently began pushing this frog off the road with my foot. When it refused my urging to leave the road completely, I finally picked it up and moved it. I have been on this road during Leopard Frog migration when it was covered with thousands of younger, smaller frogs. It is impossible not to run over frogs when it is like that. Thankfully this was just a lone frog on the move. The highlight you see in the eye, keeps the photo from being too boring. It adds a little life.
This is another Horicon Marsh photo of an immature Pied-billed Grebe. I love these guys as they seem to have a tendency to inhabit clear, reflective waters. I have images of dozens of different individual birds of this species in reflective waters like this.
Where and when you go searching for wildlife is always what will make your success, or guarantee your failure. Living near lake Michigan as I do, means that there will be plenty of harbors and marinas that will stay open and free of ice for much of the winter and early spring. That provides great opportunities to capture images of birds like Horned Grebes both in winter plumage, and in breeding plumage. Grebes show no noticeable differences in the sexes.
I’ve known many photographers who would not bother to push the shutter button if the animal in the viewfinder was common. As a former stock photographer I knew the value in having images of rare and/or majestic creatures in my stock files. I also knew that editors published pictures of common animals as well.
Back when you needed to get close to animals (before cropping) in order to make full-frame shots, I realized I was always going to get close to more Whitetail does than bucks. Mostly does without fawns. The one thing about photographing common animals that you can get close to is, you will get many opportunities and with those opportunities will come photos that are unique.
Many of my wildlife photographers friends would drive off rather than bother with a fawn-less doe. I loved photographing animals and would make pictures of anything that would allow me in their presence. That is a male Brown-headed Cowbird that is using this lady as a lookout tower, right after picking a few insects off her back. A symbiotic relationship.
Few photographers waste their time with common gulls like the Ring-billed. I always found they were worth the time. If nothing else, they made good practice for photographing rarer seabirds. This one seems flat-out proud of its accomplishment while fishing.
Backyard bird photography was something I did little of most of my photographic career. Eventually, I came to enjoy it. You can go out sit for a while, make a few pictures then go in and accomplish something than needs to be done, and repeat as often as necessary. In fact, one could make a trip to the fridge and enjoy a sandwich while capturing pictures. Of course, I never did that.
Most of the turtle pictures I made in my career were made with short lenses while I was up close and personal. With that said, my final Snapping (and Blanding’s) Turtle images were in fact created from my car. Even after all of those “up close” experiences with Snappers, I have never been more grateful for a turtle than this final subject. I in fact said thank you, when all was done.
If any of the subjects in today’s pictures are still alive and with us, it is this lovely lady. If she is, she is currently taking a long winter’s nap. Hopefully in spring, she will make some other photographer as happy as she did me.
I think the question merits discussion as to whether or not wildlife images from the past will be viewed and enjoyed for much longer. The detail possible with today’s cameras, and the ability to capture action via high ISO settings, renders photos made over five years ago, or today with older cameras, a hard sell as far as being compelling photography. I have noticed that Art Wolfe (over 40 years of photography) has finally given up sharing his older, and often iconic digital wildlife shots. He seems to have given up on sharing scanned film pictures as well.
I can live with my images losing their relevance, but not the iconic pictures from the greatest photographers of the past. To know where you are, and where you will go, it is often necessary to look at those who preceded you, especially those that blazed new paths. This is just as true of outdoor/wildlife photography as it is anything else in life.
Have a wild winter, Wayne