Best subjects are the ones that find you

January 13, 2010

Wednesday afternoon as I set off to check on the beaver, I wasn’t sure what I would be able to find. As it turns out, fate was on my side and I got some really nice images.

When it all started, I wasn’t so optimistic.

Upon arriving, I immediately found the beaver on land and found a suitable shooting location nearby. With the animal’s back to me I was able to slowly close the distance, being careful not to disturb anything that would make noise.

Right when I was at ease with my shooting position, another person approached with a point and shoot camera in the creature’s immediate line of sight. The guy loomed over the animal and as it understandably became frightened, the man tried running (yes, running) to a different vantage point. Goodbye, beaver; it jumped the bank and hit the water.

“I’ve never seen a beaver here,” the man said as he walked off.

As I scanned for the direction the creature was traveling in, I noticed him moving downstream to his usual area, but wasn’t sure how he was going to do it since he was nearing solid ice covering the stream. Pretty soon he was out of view. I still don’t know if he went over or under the ice at that point, but I gave up for the time being.

After some more successful shooting of various subjects, I returned to the stream and noticed him lumbering across the ice on the other side.

I paralleled him for a while until he stopped. As I paused I noticed him raise his tiny little snout and then quickly work his way through the ice at the very edge of the water before disappearing. Yes, that’s right – my presence is enough to make an animal squeeze under a frozen waterway.

I didn’t know exactly how he was going, but I knew the end destination.

After giving him a few minutes, I approached the area where I knew he would have to emerge from under the ice sheet. Sure enough, a furry little blob was winding its way across that very section. I approached, but not too close, and got down on my knees and then made myself as small as I could.

Of course he’s going to run away, I thought.

Instead, within a few minutes I find him slowly getting closer. and closer. and closer… until he is aimed straight at me.

There are two possibilities that ran through my head. One – the beaver honestly didn’t know I was there but happened to be coming in my direction or two – the beaver knew I was there, it didn’t like it and it was coming to eat my face.

As it turns out, I’ve come to believe beavers have poor eyesight but a great sense of smell and I think it MAY have noticed something different but not known what it was.

It approached within perfect distance and then just stopped. It smelled the air and turned its head a different direction, smelled again and repeated over and over. Only rarely did it seem to actually look at me so I’m pretty sure it had no idea what I was. As I steadied to brace myself I fired off a series of shots when things lined up.

The main difficulty was that with the sun dropping lower and lower and my personal refusal to go over 800 ISO (unless I absolutely have to), I was firing off at 1/10 second exposures. I’m lucky that I’ve got a pretty steady hand and that as many of these turned out as they did.

Slowly it made its way to the far side of the stream and dove toward his front door.

A very rewarding experience after some earlier disappointment. If you’re shooting wildlife, it’s often better to let the subjects find you.

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One Response to “Best subjects are the ones that find you”


  1. […] watching the bird for a while, I scanned the water again, hoping to see some of the beavers that I’ve observed in the past. Unfortunately, they were nowhere to be […]


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