Photography isn’t just a fun little hobby to me, it’s a sport, a game, a contest. The biggest competition I face is myself… every image I take, every edit I make, I’m one upping what work I did before. I compliment myself on being good at what I do. Almost any picture, angle, light and subject is like putty in my capable, artistic hands. Which is why I found myself muttering under my breath in frustration, wet, cold and shivering in the rain, in the middle of the woods somewhere in the Pacific Northwest.
Commissioned by a large wildlife enthusiast publication for an image of a white tail doe with a fawn, I thought, “Hey, this will be a cinch!” Just hide away in the woods, get some of that human smell masker from the hunting store, and wait until a perfect mama and fawn duo come ambling by. I’ve taken wildlife photos before, so regardless of what you’re thinking, I’m not completely uneducated here, but this job proved to be much more difficult that I thought. Needless to say, a perfect mama and fawn never ambled by my perfect hiding place. All I got was a day full of alternating cold, slushy rain and a little bit of sun. On to the next bright idea.
One of my plans included climbing high and scoping out a likely pair from far enough away that they wouldn’t have the least suspicion man was in the forest. Some friends of mine had taken a couple great shots of squirrel and other fuzzy little woodland creatures by doing something like that. They borrowed a scope from a pal and used it to spot the subjects of their photography. I borrowed the same scope, spent a long, wet day in a tree-stand, waiting for that perfect shot, and… nothing again. Other than witnessing some goofy chipmunk antics and countless bird squabbles, it was a no-go.
It wasn’t until I was trekking out of the woods that day, that I happened to see a trail camera fastened to a little birch tree. Bingo! There were plenty of deer all around this place, the evidence was obvious to anyone looking at the ground. I had to get a closer look at that trail cam, so even though I realized I was probably getting my picture taken over and over by it, I walked up to the camera to get a good look and maybe find something similar online later. It was definitely in a strategic spot. It looked like there was a popular feeding area in front of it, so it must have taken some interesting photos. I took note of the brand name and left for my warm car.
Safely on my sofa at home, browsing online, there were plenty of options available to me, as I could see from looking at trail camera reviews. I wanted one that I could set to take a picture every second once the camera sensed motion and began taking pictures, and I even found one that would text me the pictures it was taking. I didn’t want to wait to get this in the mail, so the next day I went to a large hunting store and bought the camera I wanted. I spent the afternoon rigging it up on a similar birch tree near the other camera, and eagerly drove back home to await the deluge of perfect wildlife photos.
At 1:00am, I got the first text. Wow. A great photo of a deer’s hindquarters. Great image resolution, pretty good shutter speed. Not exactly the pose I wanted. I turned my phone off for the rest of the night and dreamed of beautiful, full-color pictures of big brown-eyed does lovingly nuzzling their fawns amidst fields of bright green grass and wildflower borders.
In the morning, there were a couple more pictures of random deer parts, and apparently a curious creature, most likely a raccoon, had been fingering my camera which got some good close ups of the animal’s hands, but other than that, no magazine worthy shots. And there weren’t any the rest of the day, nor the day after, nor the day after. Just countless, very high quality images of deer tails, deer faces and, occasionally, a whole deer.
This story does have a happy ending. I wound up going out with a scope again with an older, seasoned deer hunter, and he showed me all of the best spots to find deer families. The shot I took of a fawn that couldn’t have been more than a day old was successfully published, and I did eventually get my doe and fawn picture as well. I mentioned my trail camera to him, and the old-timer said, “So that’s where I’d seen you before. I got some great shots of your nose that day.”