There are few things as exciting, at least to me, as wildlife photography. As an ecologist by training, I love the thrill of watching animals in their natural environments.
I have not been to a zoo in more than forty years. My heart pains when I see animals confined, unable to engage their instincts, standing in corners, depressed, or anxiously, pathologically pacing back and forth.
Part of the allure of wildlife photography is the holistic experience; the preliminary research about the animal’s behavior, discussions with experts, and tapping the wisdom of elders. I always start my wildlife photography just observing. What is it I want to capture about the animal? What is the story I am trying to tell?
I remember one cold Fall morning photographing in a stream in Canada. When I stood up to relieve my aching knees, there was a black bear not ten feet from me on the other side of a small bush that separated us. He had not noticed me, intent as he was fattening up on berries for winter. At times like that we are given a gift. The wide-angle equipment mounted on my tripod would not have worked, even if I had tried to capture an image or two. No. I made sure my bear spray was still attached to my vest and then I breathed in and just watched him. What a beautiful creature, his fur glimmering in the light, his satisfied groans so pleasing to my ear. He continued grazing as he moved away from me, then he looked up and saw me. He stared at me and for some reason I nodded. I can’t say why I did that, but for an instant or two we had a connection. Those are the moments I live for, photograph or not.