During a visit home to West Tennessee last year, I needed to practice with a “new to me” long lens I had just purchased. A friend of mine, Dr. Andy Lambert, knew of a farm with a good-sized deer herd that had several big bucks. He also knew that each day, at about sunset, the deer would come out of the wood line and graze in the field — so off we went.
I extend my thanks to Glen and Pat Jenkins who allowed us to come on their farm to photograph the deer. I took a small stool to sit on and tried to wear clothing that wouldn’t stand out as something new to the deer. Fortunately, they noticed me but didn’t run.
Sometimes photography is a lot like hunting but with different outcomes. You study animal behaviors, prepare your equipment, plan for the best locations and times and pack a lot of extra patience for the waiting. My goal is to capture subjects in their natural habitats, behaving as they do with no one around.
With wildlife photography, it’s not ethical to disturb your subject for the sake of a photograph. You must respect all laws, including private property rights, and leave no trace that you were there. Keeping a safe distance between you and your subject is also a must.
Another friend and hunter, Robbie Holmes, joined me in our hiding spot to teach me how he goes unnoticed by the deer during hunts. We settled in and waited about 150 yards away for about 30 minutes. Deer finally began to appear from the woods.
The rut was just beginning, so there was quite a lot of activity with bucks chasing does. They were all moving nervously and quickly in the late evening light. I focused in on these two deer as they seemed to be sticking close together. They stayed still for a few moments as they observed the chases going on across the sun-bathed field.
As I started “shooting,” the sun appeared to be sinking quickly on the horizon. The low angle of the warm sunlight cast a rim light on the necks of the deer, making them stand out from the fall color in the background even more than they had a few minutes before. The new lens I was testing worked flawlessly, auto focusing on the subject and blurring the background nicely with a low depth of field.
I hope to see these two again this fall for another chance to photograph them. When you are out shooting photographs this fall, please remember: Take only photographs; leave only footprints.