My worst pictures from Lakota Wolf Preserve
Every fall, Dan’s runs a photo expedition to Lakota Wolf Preserve. I’ve always wanted to go, and this year I got to be the instructor’s assistant! Now we always see a ton great pictures from all our students on this outing. I figured you might be tired of those, so I wanted to share my experience with a few of my worst photos.
Keep scrolling, they're not all this bad...
So here's the deal.
For the best light, we want to be at the preserve for sunrise. And that means waking up at stupid o’clock in the morning. I wasn’t quite awake yet here and my settings were all off for this photo of the bus. Let me tell you, it was dark. Chilly too. You get the idea.
By the time we passed through Martins Creek, you could just start to see the sky lighting up in the east. There was some quiet chat on the bus, but I think a lot of us were napping. The light in the front seat is Patty from Tamron going over her paperwork with a little flashlight.
It was still pretty dark when we got there but Patty, our amazing Tamron rep, is always quick to have everything ready to go. She brings a ton of Tamron lenses for everybody to use, free of charge. It’s fantastic. When you go, make sure you take advantage of this.
From the parking lot here, we took another small bus up the hill to the preserve itself. The sun was just starting to come up- time to see some wolves!
We get special access on this trip. We’re in an area where the general public doesn’t get to go, with big open holes in the fence where you can get an unobstructed view. You can see what I mean in this shot.
That’s Jim from Lakota Wolf Preserve telling us all about the animals we’re looking at. And I was expecting the wolves to be off the in trees, out in the distance.
I wasn’t expecting this.
I missed focus here. The whole picture is slightly blurry because I wasn’t prepared for this wolf to only be a couple feet away from me. So here I am crouched down with my little camera pressed right up against the fence, using a 23mm wide-angle lens instead of a telephoto. She was right on top of me. After I clicked the shutter she came toward me and sniffed a bit, and I could feel her breath on my hand. When we say you’ll get a close-up view here, this is what we’re talking about. She came over to me a few more times too. Jim said she liked me. I’ll take that compliment.
And I had that same problem over and over all day. For all the shots I have like this:
I’ve got lots more like this:
It was impossible to get a better picture of this guy. Every time I tried, he walked right up to the fence to see what I was up to. He was literally inches away from me.
It was the same story over at the fox enclosure. Mr. Fox here was perched on a log in the sun, but wandered right over next to me while I was lining up the shot.
Ok, so what did I learn here?
First, I need to watch my focus. None of these animals stay still for long, and they’re not always where you expect them to be. And I need to watch out for other stuff that will throw off my autofocus. This shot of a younger wolf would be better if the focus hadn’t locked onto the plants in front of him.
But at least I got this shot of him having a good scratch.
It’s kind of silly, but I like it.
And I also have to watch shutter speed, especially early in the morning when there’s less light. I didn’t manage to freeze the motion in this shot, and the wolf is blurry because he moved sooner than I expected.
But mostly what I learned is that if I hadn’t gotten a single good photo, I’d still have been completely happy with the whole trip. Meeting these animals where they live and watching them interact was a fantastic experience. Standing in the middle of a pack of howling wolves is a sound you won’t ever forget. If you’re thinking about it at all, just find a way to make it happen and go.
-- Scott Piccotti is the website developer at Dan's. He's also been avid photographer for about 25 years, and occasionally manages to get out from behind his desk for fun stuff like this.