Spontaneity in the Wild: Interaction of the Ages

During my thirty year tenure as a photographer I have spent countless months observing and documenting natural history behavior that defines the various species I have encountered. Some of these incidents were encountered by sheer luck while others were the result of knowing it could happen and concentrating my efforts to be on site when the likelihood of interaction might occur. I can recount incidences where the shot of a life time was missed because I was a few moments too late or perhaps it was the result of my own short comings in the quick use of a camera. However, I try not to dwell on the missed opportunities but instead celebrate those that I was so lucky to have witnessed and captured for viewers to enjoy. Included here are a few of those special moments that come along but once in a “blue moon”. Hope you will enjoy and appreciate them in part by the work involved to secure them as well as the uniqueness in this “moment that stands still”, a millisecond in the life of those wild ones that defines the natural history of the species therein.

On a snowy morning in February I was persuing on foot a flock of wild turkey with the hope of getting images of a big boss gobbler in flight. In peering over a hilltop I observed these two big Rio Grande gobblers in battle, pushing and shoving one another in an attempt to perhaps establish dominance in the peck order for the upcoming mating season. I kneeled down immediately and started shooting images with my Canon F1N and Canon 500mm F4.5L lens and after exposing some five rolls of Kodachrome the two big birds broke off the engagement and flew away. I trudged back to my pickup elated with the results of the morning shoot!

One day in late winter my youngest son, Pate, and I were pulling rattlesnakes from a den for relocation to a safer and less hostile environment. Peering into the boulders strewn about along a creek I spotted these two western diamondback rattlesnakes in the act of copulation. Having seen it only one other time in my life I grabbed the camera and shot images of a moment in the natural history of rattlesnakes that occures every year but is rarely ever seen by people, even those who have lived in snake country for a lifetime. Canon 5D and Canon 24-105mm F4L lens. ISO 100 hand held.

In a lifetime of living in snake country here in the Texas rolling plains I have observed the behavior of literally hundreds if not thousands of reptiles. Few behavioral encounters can equal the day my two sons, Hunter and Pate, came running in to tell me that they had found a "snake eating a snake" down the road! I grabbed my camera and followed them some 200 yards distance and was amazed to find this King snake devouring a young western diamondback rattler. Canon F1N with Canon 80-200mm F4 lens. Velvia 50 ISO film hand held.

During the 14 years spent observing and photographing the Texas roadrunner I had the opportunity and honor of spending time at close range with three or four pairs of these birds as they mated, incubated and raised their young birds to adulthood. Often times they would allow me to accompany them on hunts around the nesting territory as they sought out insects and reptiles to feed the nestlings. In this case an adult roadrunner grabs a small garter snake and kills it before scurrying off to the nest to satiate the hunger of four young birds waiting impatiently at home. Canon F1N and Canon 300mm F2.8L lens with Velvia 50 ISO hand held.

During the years spent shooting images for my book, "Roadrunner", Texas Tech University Press, I was intent on documenting essentially every aspect of this birds behavior that I possibly could. The act of mating is a most difficult behavior to photograph due to the birds basic elusive traits but on one morning I was most fortunate to document the moment of copulation as the male finally coaxed the female into submission with his offering of a brush mouse in return for the favor! LOL!! Canon F1N and Canon 300mm F2.8L lens. Velvia 50 ISO film and handheld.

While photographing for my book, "Coyote", Texas Tech University Press, I spent weeks crouched in makeshift blinds made from mesquite stumps in an attempt to document the behavior of coyotes interacting with one another. Here two male animals duke it out around a dead horse where being an Alpha critter is essential in maintaining a full belly during the cold winter months on the Texas plains. Canon F1N with Canon 500mm F4.5L lens. Velvia 50 ISO film and shot from a tripod.

Observing skirmishes between whitetail bucks is common in areas of high deer density, especially at feeding plots that force deer into close proximity to one another. But to find two big bucks in a life and death struggle on the open plains is another matter. One cold evening right after sundown my friend and rancher, Mike Gibson, and I were driving over open rangeland when we saw these two bucks squaring off for battle. I jumped from the pickup and dashed to a vantage point just as the deer collided. With light waning fast I pushed my ISO 50 film to 100 and began shooting as the fight continued. Shooting at the iffy shutter speed of 1/90th of a second I was still able to secure this dramatic image of dueling whitetail bucks on the open plains of Texas. Canon F1N and Canon 500mm F4.5L hand held.


5 thoughts on “Spontaneity in the Wild: Interaction of the Ages

  1. Don Harris

    thanks for being in the right place at the right time with your camera and sharing these wonerful shots with us.

  2. DaveR.Summers

    It is very satisfying in a Lonesome Dove Country, sort of a way,to listen quitely to these images as they converse with the mind and soul.Our eyes are filled with a scence of pride in knowing well the role they get to play in greeting the the photographic subjects that speak loud and clear about the dust, dirt, sky & vast human resource we call Texas. Their raised,deliberate tone alone, moves the viewer with emotion.We are fortunate to have one among us that gives in this manner & is a good listens with his eye.The Turkey alone is worth more than a 1000 words.

  3. Judy Korthuis

    Thank you so much for sharing your beautiful & breathtaking photography. Through your lens, you allow us the opportunity to see things we would otherwise probably never have the opportunity to see. Thank you for sharing. Nature is so incredible and I love it in all of it’s forms!

  4. Janna Moore

    Your pictures are absolutely beautiful. Thank you so much for sharing them. Looking at them I almost had the feeling that I was there watching the story unfold before my eyes (Now that is great photography!). I’m so blessed that God saw fit for me to be born and raised in this wonderful and majestic state of TEXAS!

  5. Darrell Clakley

    Great pictures! I have been doing amateur photography for a number of years; mostly taking shots of my family’s activities. My youngest son plays baseball–currently a junior at Centenary College in Shreveport and I have been fortunate to have literally taken thousands of him and his teammates. Your photographs capture the essence of the moment and one almost feels that they were there with you. Thank you for sharing.


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