June 12, 2006

I Shot Bambi

by peterb

Nature photography can be frustrating. It's typically very hard to get close to wild animals. Hardcore nature photographers thus often use tripods, blinds, and very long lenses. This combination lets them create images that seem impossibly close up from hundreds of feet away. I'm too cheap to buy any of these lenses. They usually cost thousands of dollars and are too heavy to lug around casually. So the only animals I can usually get closeups of are either dead, domesticated, or exceedingly stupid.

In the "exceedingly stupid" category I would put the wild turkeys that have decided to live on Negley Avenue in the middle of Pittsburgh. I regularly walk (and drive) within a foot of these things, but unfortunately have never had my camera with me. But yesterday's lucky find makes up for my lack of turkey luck. I managed to get within 6 feet of a recently born fawn while carrying my camera and a reasonably long lens. It sat perfectly still while I took photographs of it. It was practically suffering fear-induced cardiac arrest. Had this been a full-grown deer, I never would have gotten within 40 feet of it.

So I got a good shot. The only reason I was able to get this close to it is that I saw it wandering around looking for its mama. As I drove up, it dove for cover in the underbrush and went to ground. That gave me plenty of time to park, get the camera, walk over, and calmly and methodically torture it with fill flash for voyeuristic purposes.

This particular deer, like all deer everywhere since the beginning of time, was mangy and starving. So before you start feeling too much sympathy for it, and get too terribly mad at me for torturing the deer, remember that in return for my great photo, I'll probably contract Lyme Disease. The fawn did eventually bolt when I got within about 3 feet. Had I been so inclined, I could have reached out and touched it.

Had I not seen exactly where the fawn had gone to ground, I would have walked right by it.

Later that day, I saw two more fawns gallop madly across an open field in the noonday sun. As they ran, they bleated for their mother. When they reached the woods on the other side of the field, they turned around and ran back to where they came from, bleating the entire time.

Apparently in Western Pennsylvania, it's been a bad week for fawns all around.

Posted by peterb at June 12, 2006 12:04 AM | Bookmark This

Somehow I didn't know you were a photographer until now. Glad to hear Bambi wasn't hurt --

Recently, a friend and I saw a really really cute baby rabbit while hiking in the Pacific Palisades. We were like 6 feet from it, and stopped for a while to watch it nibble on things. Wish I'd had my point-n-shoot digital camera --

Posted by green la girl at June 12, 2006 12:43 AM

The hardest thing about nature photography for me is actually caring about the subject enough to take a picture of it. This sounds insensitive and boorish, but one thing that I've learned about me is that I'd rather take pictures of cities and buildings and people than of trees and water and especially animals. It just doesn't excite me, and the you can tell from the pictures.

Posted by psu at June 12, 2006 05:22 PM

Interesting -- I find buildings and cities and people utterly drab, whereas I go nuts photographing fungus and plants. Animals are hard; but if I had a real camera I'd be just a happy shooting them too.

Posted by Benoit at June 12, 2006 07:02 PM

I find that I like woodland scenery, but mostly I'd rather be there than taking a picture. The camera gets in my way.

Posted by Doug at June 12, 2006 09:31 PM

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