Sometimes they’re just sitting in the road

Sometimes they're just sitting in the road

Hawk on a dirt road at sunset

Some of the crazy places I’ve been, crazy things I’ve done… for photography.

I’m not a big fan of “Zoo Shots” but hate people calling it wildlife photography. Spending time at the Zoo is a great way to spend a day and take some pictures in a no pressure environment. I’ve been meaning to go to the Zoo here in Boise for some time. But what I hate is seeing a photo by a wildlife photog and thinking, wow, how in the world… Then learning that it was on a ranch where the photog had paid several hundred dollars for a few hours of guaranteed time shooting this animal. And what I hate more is I didn’t come up with the idea to pin in a bunch of animals, call it a game ranch and let photogs come in by the van load to pay me to see them. I don’t have a problem with the shots themselves, I’ve seen some good photos from zoos and game ranches, but it’s not WILDlife. My problem is when a wildlife photographer fails to mention that he paid money to photograph the animal in a controlled environment.

I used to live next to the Smokeys, now live near Yellowstone & The Tetons and enjoy going up to Glacier. I love shooting wildlife in the National Parks but still don’t get the same excitement photographing an animal in a park as I do out in the sticks. It still takes skill and persistence to get good photos and see the best wildlife in a national park (unless we’re talking Mountain Goats at Glacier). I don’t know, maybe it’s all the other people, more likely just the large majority of people who go to a big box retail store buy an expensive camera, go to Yellowstone take a few pictures and call themselves a photographer.

One guy a few years back that was asking me for camera recommendations for his vacation to some small island in the Caribbean, you know one of those islands with ten thousand tourist on any given weekday. He was told the best camera around was Canon’s new (at the time) 40D and wanted to me to confirm what the salesperson had told him. Don’t get me wrong, the 40d is a fine camera but I don’t think the guy could spell canon. He had been told to get the 40d and a 300mm telephoto zoom. Much to his persistence and my annoyance I answered a few questions for him and suggested that camera was way beyond what he needed; suggesting that for a lot less money he could get a XTi (or something of that nature, I don’t recall) and still do what he wanted. “But, if I don’t get the 40d I won’t be able to sell the photos when I get back.”       hmmm.

He found me a week later with a brand new 40d in his hands. He only had one question this time as he pulled the camera out of his bag without a lens or body cap on. Imagine all the dust from his bag and Idaho’s desert getting in that poor camera. “What to all these buttons and dials do?” A question I refused to answer. He saw me one other time as he was trying to use the camera and it wouldn’t take a picture. He had screwed up the setting so bad and blamed Canon for making a crappy product, I showed him how to do a factory reset of the settings and suddenly it worked. I imagine two things, 1) he got half way through his trip and couldn’t figure out how to take a picture 2) got back and was mad that he couldn’t sell his vacation photos. I assume he at least wanted to pay for the camera that way 🙂

I’ve seen too many of those people in National Parks, I sometimes fear that standing in close proximity to these folks will drop my IQ by several points so I avoid photog groups like the plague. Like the one person up in Glacier a couple years ago. He had a 500mm “L” lens shooting a Big Horn Sheep standing twenty feet away. My dad will recall this every now and then and laugh but the guy couldn’t tell the difference between a Ram and Ewe. Lets just say even without the horn size difference, it’s a tad obvious. As I recall there were six females and one male. It wouldn’t have been as bad if he would have kept his stupidity to himself. but no. He was one of these people who likes to talk loud so other people overhear and can tell how smart stupid he is. He was rather loudly explaining, incorrectly, to someone standing next to him how these were all rams and the differences between male sheep and female sheep. Several thousand dollars worth of camera equipment being wasted on an idiot. But what was worse, a some of people around him were nodding in agreement.

So the other day Joy and I were wrapping up one of the best vacations we’d ever had with a drive on a little dirt road in the middle of Idaho looking for a place to take a long exposure start trail photo. (like this or this one) I’ve been to some crazy places and done some crazy things for photos and that’s part of the fun. I don’t like taking pictures of animals on or near roads, I like their natural habitat and no one else around. I like landscapses from angles no one else shoots. Sometimes for photos you hike miles into the wilderness. Sometimes you climb a mountain. Sometime you sit and wait for days. Sometimes you plan months in advance. Sometimes that moose is standing on main street. Sometimes the bear walks through the gas station parking lot. Sometimes you wake up and find mountain lion tracks in the snow between your truck and camper trailer. And sometimes they’re just sitting in the road.

This photo was taken with me driving our old quarter million mile F150 down a dirt road during sunset. This guy was just sitting in the road. I and my 300mm zoom leaned out the window and in first gear slowly pulled up the road toward him. Driving a manual transmission on a dirt road with lots of holes in it and trying to stablized a 300mm out the window looking forward to take a bird shot is always fun.

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