Close Encounters

As a youthful Infantry Sergeant stationed in Central America, I often encountered animals in the wild and I still rely on those experiences when photographing wildlife.

Several months ago, during a local speaking engagement, I was asked about close encounters and what lessons I had learned from them – fortunately, they’re few and far between.

There are two types of threats – perceived and real.  A few years ago, outfitted with a new macro lens, I came across a pigmy rattlesnake. Eager to get some close photos, I got on the ground and slowly crawled towards the snake. Knowing the exact distance of the strike zone, I was feeling pretty darn confident. All of a sudden the cell phone in my front pants pocket started to vibrate. The buzz of that vibration mimics their rattle and convinced me that I had just rolled on top of another snake, the little boy in me screamed as I jumped straight up, ushering some choice words in the process.

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Lessons learned? Snakes are cool, vibrating cell phones – not so much.

A few years ago I received a call from a Debra asking me if I’d take her boyfriend out for some wildlife photography. His birthday was coming up and he had an interest in photography and she thought this might be fun for him.

Eloy Castroverde and I headed out on the trails and after a bit, I decided that we could bushwhack through some tall grass as a short cut. Part way through the tall grassy area, we noticed a very large wild pig walking straight at us. My first instinct was to get down low in the grass and get a couple of shots off, which we both did, then as the pig was within a few yards and too close for comfort, we quickly stood up and started yelling. Completely startled, it looked directly at us then thundered off into the woods.

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Lessons learned? Look big and make a lot of noise – also, make new friends. Ever since that experience, Eloy has become a good friend and an accomplished wildlife photographer, who just returned from the photographing polar bears and artic fox in the tundra.

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Finally, I love to take photos of baby alligators but it’s wise to find the mother’s location first. Breaking my Golden Rule and shortly after taking this photo, I heard the sound of this parent gator rushing towards me.

Lessons learned? Get the shot then get out of the way!

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