No charm the second time around. I was last in Baxter State park in 2008. Near the end of the day I had the moose encounter of a lifetime. I was (my) nose to very big nose (moose). And it was awesome. I knew it was once in a lifetime then. Unfortunately, it has proven correct so far.
We tried once more. The views were spectacular. The closest I got was a moose sign as we left the park. But at almost the same time after we had just left the park… beaver! I stopped to shoot the setting sun over a marsh.
And in the water were two beavers just swimming about. They were unfazed by me or my camera. And voila! Beaver encounter. I realize that they were not particularly photogenic. But at least I had a real wild nature encounter with an animal not usually seen by me in the wild.
There are questions that have no safe answer. Try, “Do I look fat in this dress, honey?” Try to answer, ‘Yes (you are),” or “No (you were, but not now).” Get my drift? I realize that there are a lot of people in my audience who are not attuned to American humor. In fact maybe I don’t have humor at all. Do you see the glass “half empty?” or “half full?”
I shot a moose once. (Yes, it’s obvious. I photographed it.) And someone in the audience asked me if I had really “shot” it. Seriously, he was very impressed (that I shot it)! No, dopey! I don’t shoot animals. I photograph, but I do not shoot. Actually, I shoot whatever is there. Get it? Well, try to understand that I am not working with a full deck and American slang humor can sail right over your head. Sorry.
As long as we are on the subject (vaguely) I was called out by my daughter. “Did you play with the puffer?” Caught! She immediately knew that the puffer was only puffed because I had provoked it. Smart cookie, that kid of mine. I deny that any fish were injured in the making of this photo. However, she contends that I have shortened its life by scaring it. Go figure!
With the very long preamble, I ask, “Do you like your photo portrait with direct or indirect gaze?” Subtle, but definitely different, it’s a matter of choice or taste. For me, I like a direct view straight on. But it’s definitely disconcerting to look straight away into someone’s eyes. It’s much more intimate. Hey! It’s a cat. Lulu’s my cat at the moment I don’t exactly ask her to look at me. I try to get her to look in my general direction and then get my camera into her face. She’s tolerant. She doesn’t get it. But she is occasionally in one place long enough for me to get a couple shots. The portrait is a success based on dead on focus on the eyes. After that composition and the rest are up to you. There are so many bad pics out there. Try harder. And it is affirmative, “a good fish photo has the eye looking toward you!” Mooses too!
I had only one actual moose encounter in three years. It got to be a joke where people would tell me where to go to find moose. But it was always a bust. Finally driving randomly through the park in rural Maine, I stopped where a couple cars were along the roadside. There were four moose, two males, a mama, and a baby. They are large enough to be nonplussed about human contact. Since they weren’t moving too quickly I had ample opportunity to get the shots I wanted. The shot I missed was the one I think about. There were four photographers. Two of us had some experience. The wife of the other photographer couldn’t set up her camera. I was helping her. What was her husband doing? The last guy was strictly amateur and walking downhill on a big male moose with a point and shoot in hand. His big grin was scary. He surely had no back up plan in case the moose decided to charge uphill. That was my shot! Well I have it in mind. It was definitely an encounter that made all the searching worthwhile.
I’ve been on a dive binge. It’s my chief hobby right now. For those of you in colder climes in the Northern Hemisphere, I have almost forgotten that it’s halfway to Christmas. The weather is colder and the frost is on the pumpkin. I lived in Maine for a time. All the while I was hoping to shoot a moose. I gave a medical talk and mentioned that I had finally shot a moose and one son of a gun actually asked me how it was to shoot it (with a gun). That got me to thinking that I should refrain from literal language (or stop talking to NRA Republicans).
Up until this particular day I was, shall we say sadly and completely unsuccessful. I had loads of advice from locals about how and where to go. Perhaps they were just playing around with a city guy? Up in the wilderness of Maine, way up past Millinoket, and near to Mt Katahdin my travels brought me on a journey and a last ditch search.
Yes! I passed three photographers idly chatting, tripods deployed, and telephoto lenses pointed off toward a far point on the lake. Their wives were with them. They pointed to a brown dot on the horizon hidden in the trees and told me it was a moose. They had to tell me because we were too far to identify anything except that it was animal not plant. Yeah!? This was a non starter.
Pretty much resigned to defeat I continued through the park on this cloudy day. Two cars were parked on the side of the road and I sensed there might be action. Walking into the woods I saw my first moose no more than 30 feet away calmly munching on whatever it is that moose munch. The first photographer was decked out in hunter clothes and appeared to be a real photographer. The other was an idiot approaching the moose from uphill. He had a maniacal grin and was edging down with a simple point and shoot camera. I felt sure this dude would soon be killed when he disturbed Mr Bullwinkle. Moose don’t see well and when startled they can make an awful mess in a hurry. It helps to stand behind a tree since it might help that the tree will slow down an angered moose. (Let it be a big tree.) I turned to the first photographer to ask about an exit strategy and he replied the moose in front is not the problem. It’s the three behind us that I might want to take care to watch. I regret not taking the picture of that idiot photographer on the uphill side. But then again he never did get hurt either.
The other bull moose and mama with baby were more interesting. None of them cared that I approached but I did so cautiously and kept to staying behind the trees. The first photographer and his wife came up to stand with me. He stayed behind and began to make his city version of moose calls. Meanwhile his wife stood next to me sharing my tree. This couple had driven to Maine that day to participate in a moose photography class. The just happened to be wandering the woods. Meanwhile they didn’t realize that they had hit the photographic jackpot. My exit strategy quickly formed. If the fool behind me wanted to make moose calls, it would be his wife I would push out from behind the tree in the event the any of the moose made a charge. It pays to think ahead. My presumption was that he didn’t like his wife too much since I had only just met the couple. Oh, and she didn’t know how to use her camera and asked me to shoot some images for her. My reason to photograph anything is to know that I shot the image myself. Otherwise who needs another picture of a moose. And remember when I say shoot, its photograph not gun.
I was not too happy with this shot. No, I did not shoot the moose with a rifle or gun. Someone seriously asked me about this after seeing my shots. Rather, I should say photos. Previously, I had some poor photos of the rescued injured moose in the wildlife park and they were lame. Meandering through Baxter State Park in northern Maine in the fall, I stopped where cars had parked by the roadside. Entering the woods, I saw a photographer in red hunter attire. There in front and among the trees was an enormous bull moose with a magnificent antler rack. The moose gets larger every time I tell the story. My camera was out and I was rapidly clicking while I expected the moose to leave at any moment. Uphill past the moose another tourist was coming downhill toward the moose. I say tourist for two reasons. He had a simple point and shoot camera. I know, this is a bit snobby of me. And, he had no clue that the moose could turn on him and kill him – definitely tourist ignorance! So I turned to my hunter/photographer acquaintance and asked what his exit strategy might be. We were both standing behind a tree for protection. I knew enough from native Mainers to know that a pissed moose is nothing to trifle with. His reply startled me. “Don’t worry about the one in front of you. It’s the three behind you that you need to be careful about.” Sure enough there were three, count ‘em, three moose, a giant bull with antlers 6 feet across, and a momma and baby. Oh boy, the last thing I wanted to do was to get between momma and her baby moose. Well, there’s momma and son in this photo. Maybe it’s not the best shot but there it is.
The follow up to the story is that the hunter was an amateur just up from somewhere else to take a photo course on how to shoot moose. Here I had been looking all over to shoot a moose for a couple years. Beginner’s luck! Now it makes sense to me. His wife came to stand next to me while I got the photo of momma and babe. And my hunter friend is standing behind his wife and me as he started to make what sounded like moose mating calls. No, I don’t know what sound that is and neither did he. But immediately my exit strategy changed. In the event the moose charged over, I would push his wife out from behind the tree. The wife was pretty nice but not too photo savvy. I lent her my big 400mm lens and she asked me to take some photos using her camera. I reset her camera, which I hope she later changed back. Meanwhile, I kept thinking that the exercise was to take your own pictures. It was about your shot and your vision. Otherwise just open National Geographic and cut out a moose picture.