I was on a recent photo-shoot and when packing up I loaded all my camera gear that I thought I would need into the back of my truck and off I drove for a few hours to the assignment. I load it up all together put it in the back of my truck so I can mentally scan the gear and make sure I have everything I need for the shoot.
It was early in the morning and on the way there I spotted a deer in a farm field amongst the grasses and nicely backlit by the sunrise. I wanted the shot. I had to get the shot! But cameras were packed in the back.
I pulled over anyway hoping that I could open my truck canopy and grab the camera, attach the 300mm lens, and get an image that would make the cover of next year’s wildlife calendar.
By the time I was at the rear of my truck, the deer, seeing a truck stop and my feet under the truck, headed back to the safety of the forest. Both the truck stopping and the feet under the truck were unusual sites for this local deer and he knew it.
This event reminded me of words I heard a long time ago from Ernie Brooks, President of Brooks Institute when I was a student there. He would ask students who were privileged to go shoot with him: “Are you loaded for bear?” A reference as to whether you had your camera at the ready just in case.
I knew about ‘being loaded for bear’ and have for 35 years. I had always tried to practice that rule so never missed a shot. But I was lazy due to having a long drive to a shoot and I packed all my gear so it was ready when I got there. I was not anticipating anything happening on my way, I would just listen to Podcast’s and music and go shoot my photography assignment.
Did I miss the best shot of my life? Probably! It was a nice scene, although not one we have not seen before. A farmers field that would be cut and baled sometime soon, warm light from the sun rising behind, and a deer standing out there. There were a few oak trees but not in the perfect location unless I backed up along the shoulder of the two lane highway for a better position. Then if I had been ‘loaded for bear’ I could have just rolled down my window and got the shot and hope that my being parked might not spook the deer.
I think of all the times I had the camera sitting on the passenger seat and nothing happened. That effort rarely was rewarded and it made me get lazy and begin to assume nothing will happen so ‘why be loaded for bear?’
The most famous photo-journalists like James Nachtway or Steve McCurry or many other brilliant photographers must be loaded for bear all the time and maybe even when they sleep. Otherwise, how could they get those incredible images at the perfect moment and as an event unfolds?
I think the same rules apply to nature photographers like they would these photo journalists or wildlife photographers. It’s about being prepared and ready, instantly, to grab a shot as it happens. That is the big unknown: ‘as it happens.’ We never know when or where, so we are just better off being ready for the moment.
I can think of many times when there was wildlife posing for me or the sun popped out of the clouds for some God Rays and sometimes I got the shot and sometimes I did not, but I have learned over and over again that the worst place to keep my camera is in the camera bag.
Have any thoughts, please leave a comment.