I got your attention with that one, didn't I?
It's a question I’m asked fairly frequently when folks get a glimpse of some of my fox photos. Last week an exhibit opened as part of the Summit County Arts Council and I was excited to have four fox photographs that were featured. I enjoy sharing with others some of the amazing sights that we are fortunate to see here in the mountains of Colorado. The other question I’m frequently asked is "How close were you to those foxes when you took their picture?".
If there was a way to make foxes or any wildlife sit still for a photo, I'd be out photographing them now, versus sharing with you. Until that happens, I’ll share what I've learned. And what I've learned is capturing any wildlife is a combination of perseverance, bravery and good luck.
Ok, I know what you're thinking: "yeh, yeh, we get the perseverance, you went back and photographed them again". Why yes I did. Again and again and again. I didn't go back once or twice. I went back once or twice a day, for 3-5 days per week, for 6+ weeks. I went back early in the morning and for the record, I am not a morning person. Those foxes might have been getting their breakfast for the day, but I can guarantee you that I was not getting mine!
So you're asking yourself "Ok, but what about the bravery? What's so brave about taking photographs?" Well, that depends on your personal sense of comfort and safety. I've been trapped in my car by a mountain goat that probably was just curious, but at that moment looked more like Spartagoatacus than curious. I knew I was right to be cautious when the goat decided to jump on the roof of the car next to me and made it his personal hangout for the next half hour. Another time two adult foxes that had been perfectly happy with each other all of a sudden were not happy – at all. As they came closer and closer to me while battling with fangs bared (yes, foxes have fangs, I saw them up close though the zoom of my lens), I quickly realized it was time to head for an exit. So before I looked for a location this week to photograph a bull moose, I also considered my exit strategy, should the said moose act up. After all, nobody wants to be moose bait.
And luck....how does luck factor in, can you make your own good luck? To some degree - yes. If you do your research, luck becomes less of a factor. Scouting a location in advance, asking others for information on your subject or location, or simply making sure you have all your equipment, these things can help you make your own good luck. Yet sometimes just being in the right place, at the right time, with the right subject and the right lighting, can provide an amazing experience. Yes, that is a lot of "rights". Kudos to you if you've experienced that.
The last thing I'll say is what I don't do. I don't feed the animals. Yes, I took a picture of some stranger that was trying to hand feed a fox, but that was simply so I'd be able to show the surgeon at the hospital what his hand looked like after the “unfortunate incident”. They’re called wildlife for a reason, and I respect that. I don't feed them and I don't try to get too close. And always, always remember that if it wants to, that animal is going to move a lot faster than you are. Lastly, I treat them like I would a neighbor if our backyards were next to each other: if what I am doing would bother the neighbors, don't do it. I let them be and try not to disturb them. And maybe, with a bit of luck, you'll capture an amazing photograph.
Not that you needed any luck to begin with!