Tag Archives: Wildlife

Fox Kits: A Little Luck and a Bit of Field Craft

When I visit my favorite photography areas I usually do a bit of scouting after I’ve made the shots I planned for. Last winter I came across a fox den while scouting. I made some mental notes of the location with plans to revisit it in the spring. A few evenings ago I was photographing wild horses. The horses were being less than animated and, honestly, I already have thousands of images of wild horses with their heads down feeding. The clouds in the sky weren’t overly interesting and I didn’t see the prospect for good sunset shots being very high either. With those considerations in mind I decided to call it an evening and head back to my kayak. However, I thought I’d go a bit out of my way and see if there was any sign of activity around the fox den. Activity there was!

As I slowly and quietly moved into a position where I could get a peak at the fox den I noticed the outline of a hear with pointy little ears through the tall glass. Not only was it an active den the kits were outside! The problem was from my location I didn’t have a clear view of the den. The den was hidden behind tall grass. To make matters work the sun was directly behind the den. The only chance I’d have to get a shot would require repositioning myself for a view of the den. Now foxes have a reputation for being shy, evasive animals. In my experience it’s an accurate reputation. In order to get a shot I’d have to move into a position where there was no cover and do so without spooking the little foxes. I figured my odds were low but I just had to give it a try.

First I noted the wind direction and plotted a course that would keep me down wind of the den. I looked at the route and could see that I would be out of view of the foxes… unless they moved up on top of the dune above their den. I set a goal of the to of a small dune about 150 or 200 feet from the den that would give me a clear view of the foxes. Upon reaching the spot I was a bit surprised to see the foxes were still outside the den. One stared intently at me as I sat very, very still. After what seemed like a long, cold stare the little mammal went back to business. For the next forty-five minutes to an hour I’d take a few shots, push my tripod and camera a foot or so in front of me, scoot up behind it and take a few more shots. Slowly I inched closer and closer to the kits. I managed to work within about one-hundred feet of the little guys before that light became too dim to shoot.

I’m a little surprised that I was able to get that close to these wild animals. I wasn’t inside a blind nor was I wearing camo. My clothes were earth tones but foxes, like other canidae, are color blind. The two things I had working in my favor was wind direction and the fact that the sun was directly behind me. Try looking directly into a low, setting sun and you’ll understand how difficult that can make things. I’ll check these images up to a small dose of apply field skills and a big helping of luck.

Wild fox kit in front of its den.

Fox kit on the Outer Bands

Foxe kits on the North Carolina coast.

A pair of young foxes in front of their den along the NC coast.

Fox kts.

Wild foxes at the Rachel Carson Estuarine Reserve

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The Rachel Carson Estuarine Reserve’s Newest Resident

Because of the need to manage the herd size new additions are always a very special event. The births of new foals are few and far between. Born a few months ago, this little horse took his first few breaths as Mother Nature shared cold, snow and ice with Coastal Carolina. What a shock it must’ve been to trade the warmth of his mother’s womb for that icy cold winter world. During my first few trips to the reserve with the hope of finding and photographing him I had no luck. His mother was doing a good job of keeping him secluded from my camera and lens. As spring began to reach the reserve the horses started falling back into their warm weather routines and that included moving this young foal into more obvious locations. While guiding a group of equine artists from Virginia we were treated with an afternoon and evening of foal watching. With no further introduction I give you “Skipper,” the reserve’s newest resident.

Young wild foal of the Carolina Coast.

A wild mare and her young colt feed along the Carolina Coast.

A young wild colt explores the Rachel Carson Estuarine Reserve near Beaufort, North Carolina

Posted in Banker Horses, General Photography, Guided Tours, Natural History in the Carolinas, Nature Photography, Wild Horses, Wildlife Photography Also tagged , , , , , , , , , |

Tangled Mane: Portraits of a Wild Horse

Life and weather have conspired to keep me from getting out to do any shooting this week. I did, however, find some time to go through my files from my last outing and to work up a few photos. While portraits lack the dynamic energy found in the fight sequences I recently posted, it is interesting to get a close look at these beautiful wild horses. In this series I showcase a pretty mare with a severely tangled mane. I think the tangle adds a bit of character and helps with impart the feeling of “wild” to the viewer. See what you think.

A wild horse feeding on marsh grass sports a tangled mane.

Portrait of a wild horse with a tangled mane.

Wild horse of the Carolina coast.

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Wild Horse Fight Sequence

To those not familiar with horse behavior it seems to happen in a flash. Teeth gnash, sharp, hard hooves flail, thousands of pounds of muscle, bone and hide explode in a vicious battle over dominance and breeding rights. It’s a scene that’s played out for as long as life has walked the planet. For those that witness one of these epic clashes it is clear why Federal, State and Local laws set boundaries on how close humans can approach wild animals. You really wouldn’t want to be caught between a pair of these battling animals.

Those of us that pay our dues and spend hour after hour observing and photographing these magnificent animals, such dramatic events rarely just happen instantaneously. We’re able to read the pre-fight behavior, the posturing and taunting that takes place before the action begins. It’s that kind of intimate knowledge that allows us to be ready to capture these duels as stills and videos. This is a simple truth that applies to all wildlife photography; knowledge of your subject substantially improves the odds of capturing interesting, compelling images. To improve ones success to failure ratio one needs to do their homework and pay their dues.

So how does one gain knowledge and pay their dues if they don’t live near their intended subject or cannot commit the hours of observation? There are really three choices: Take your chances, go it on your own and hope to get lucky. Hire an experience guide to help get you in the right place at the right time. Sign-up for a photography workshop dealing with the subject you’re interested in photographing. Of course doing a little homework doesn’t hurt either. Read a few books and articles, watch some video, follow some blogs… in short gather some information to give you a head start in your quest to make exciting photos of wild animals in their natural environments.

The following is a sequence of images from a recent wild horse fight I witnessed.

A clash of titans - a pair of wild stallions fight on the tidal flats near Beaufort, North Carolina

Wild horses battling over the right to breed on North Carolina's Outer Banks

Wild mustang fight near Beaufort, NC

Wild horses in combat along the Outer Banks of North Carolina

Dueling wild mustangs along the Crystal Coast of North Carolina

The wild horse fight ends

Posted in Banker Horses, General Photography, Natural History in the Carolinas, Nature Photography, Photo Tip, Wild Horses, Wildlife Photography Also tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

Gray Squirrel: A Common Creature That’s Oh So Cute

When it comes to squirrels people either love them or hate them. Folks with bird feeders may see these quaint little rodents and thieving pests that are constantly stealing their bird food. Others find these creatures to be cute furry little animals. It’s all a matter of perspective. Personally, I kind of enjoy watching them. If you’re sitting in the forest, waiting on a deer, bear or whatever your target subject might be, squirrels can provide a great deal of entertainment. If you’ve ever sat in a blind for a few hours, waiting for your subject to present its self to your lens, you’ll understand the value of being entertained by small critters like squirrels.

A few mornings ago I had a spot staked out, waiting for a whitetail deer to present its self. Now mind you, I didn’t just walk out into the middle of the woods with no rhyme or reason, but I’m staking out a location I’ve scouted for signs of frequent deer travel. While waiting on a deer a couple of squirrels were kind enough to pose for me. Below are a couple of the resulting photos.

Squirrels con be entertaining when sitting in a hide.

A cute, furry squirrel sits in a tree.

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More Whitetail Deer

I made it out again this morning to see if I could get a few more photographs of whitetail deer. While the conditions were less than wonderful I was blessed with the opportunity to make images of three separate bucks. Two of them with really nice racks of antlers. The downside of the morning is that it started out as a very overcast morning, at times including drizzle and a smidgen or rain. Those conditions force the use of a higher ISO setting than one would really prefer, coupled with slower than optimal shutter speeds. Never the less we make the best of the conditions we have, or go home and veg-out on the couch. That second option just isn’t acceptable to me. So without further delay here are some whitetail images from this morning.

Whitetail Deer in a maritime forest along the eastern North Carolina coast.

Eight point buck in eastern North Carolina.

8 point buck in the pine forest of the Crystal Coast.

Young buck with spike antlers near Emerald Isle, NC

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Car Blind? What the Heck is That!

Car Blind? A Hot Topic

There’s a fairly busy discussion going on at one of the popular nature photography forums concerning “the best color for a car blind.” This seemingly innocent question actually opens the door to a few interesting insights into nature photography today. For example, what the heck is a car blind?

Many “nature photographers” spend a good deal of time taking photos out of their car or truck windows. Many, if not most National Wildlife Refuges have a road called “Wild Life Drive.” There are many drives in National Parks that are known for providing a lot of looks at wildlife (the Cades Cove Loop road in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park quickly comes to mind). Additionally, forest roads, state parks and even country roads may provide looks at wildlife and birds. So the vehicle you use to drive along these routes becomes your “car blind.”

Now you may be thinking, “it sounds like Bob has a little problem with this idea.” Well, yes and no. I’m as guilty as the next photographer of taking advantage of an opportunity if it presents its self. But usually when this happens it’s when I’m traveling from point A to point B and cross paths with a photo op. I really can’t fault anyone for taking the “car blind” approach, especially those with physical disabilities that make hiking, setting up a blind, etc. difficult or impossible. But there are draw-backs to this practice.

It should be obvious that the you’re going to see a lot of repetition of locations and point of view from the “car blind” crowd. After all, the use of the vehicle as your shooting platform limits the areas you can access and also dictates the shooting height of your photos. You’ll never get that nice, low perspective shooting out of a car or truck window.

The other disadvantage to this kind of approach to nature photography is the photographer isn’t really getting the true nature experience. There’s something special about spending time hiking along a trail or sitting for an hour or two in a hide that cannot be matched by restricting your outdoors adventure to the inside of your car. Plus the car-bound photographer isn’t getting the exercise that hiking through nature provides. A little walking is good for the heart, the mind and the entire body.

Perhaps I’ll tackle the question of what makes a good car blind in another post. Like I said, there’s nothing wrong with doing it. I just wanted to get people thinking a little about some of the advantages and draw-backs to using that as your primary nature photography method.

A typical whitetail deer shot taken out the window of a car.

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The Buck Stops Here

I rolled out of bed early yesterday morning and headed for the woods with the hope of getting a few photos of Whitetail Deer. Eastern North Carolina isn’t one of those places where one can easily find wildlife willing to pose for photos. We don’t have a national park close by where the wildlife has been habituated to humans. Instead we have acres and acres of dense forest where every fall hunters armed with bow & arrow, muzzle loading rifles and modern firearms go hunting. When your impression of humans is that of a creature that hurls arrows and lead in your direction, standing pretty for a photo isn’t something you’re likely to do.

That’s not to say you can never get lucky and find a deer or two standing out in the open that you can get a photo of, but it’s a bit rare. There are also a few locations… “safe zones” if you will where you’re odds of getting in camera range is a bit better than it is in the National forest or National Wildlife Refuge. It pays to develop a bit of knowledge about the area you live in and the animals you wish to photograph.

Whitetail Deer in a forest along the North Carolina coast.

Whitetail "button buck."

Whitetail “button buck.”

Whitetail deer buck.

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Rough Green Snake

The weather broke a bit late this afternoon so I decided to venture out and see if I could find something interesting to photograph. The skies were still threatening a bit so I decided to stick to the car and explore some forest roads. That type of outing is always a bit hit or miss… with miss being the most common. I got lucky and notice a Rough Green Snake in the middle of the forest road. While they’re probably common enough their bright green color makes them very difficult to find when in vegetation. They are generally fairly tolerant of close contact with humans, seldom if ever bite so I decided to take advantage of those tendencies and used a macro lens combined with a 1.4x teleconverter and, eventually, an extension tube. For some of these shots the front of my lens was probably within 3 inches or so of the snake’s face.


A Rough Green Snake in the Croatan National Forest

Rough Green Snakes are fairly docile and approachable.

Green snakes eat primarily insects and spiders.

Rough Green Snake.

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Rainy Day in the Croatan National Forest

I got up early yesterday morning, planning on looking for some macro shots in the Croatan National Forest. Before I could set-up my first shot the skies started darkening and then opened up with a down pour. Considering the weather, I decided to spend some time scouting for new spots by driving a few forest roads I hadn’t explored before. On one road I came upon a fawn standing in the middle of the forest road. I’m not a fan of shooting out of a vehicle window. I prefer to get out in the field when making images. However I knew if I opened the door and stepped out the fawn would be gone. Being too good of an opportunity not to take advantage of, I took a few shots, eased the car forward and took a few more. After my second move forward that fawn was joined by it’s mother, providing a wonderful “Bambi & Mother” photo op. I kept working closer and closer to the pair and eventually, of course, they headed off into the woods.

Continuing my exploration I headed on down the road to it’s termination. I swung the car around and headed back out the way I came. Much to my surprise and delight I spotted another deer standing in the road. I swallowed my “shooting out the window of a vehicle isn’t real nature photography” attitude once again and hung the camera out the window. As I shot and crept in closer two more whitetails joined their friend on the road. The watched me, fed a bit, watched me some more and eventually moved casually into the forest. Come fall I have a good idea of where to do some “real nature photography” and set-up a portable stand for some whitetail deer photography.


A whitetail deer stands in the center of a forest road in the Croatan National Forest.

Three amigos... a trio of deer walk along an isolated forest road.

A fawn standing in a forest road.

A doe and her fawn in the Croatan National Forest.

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