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.