Stephen Kirkpatrick

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Splendor In The Grass

This morning, I experienced one of the most magical moments in my entire 30-year career as a wildlife photographer. 

I left my house at 5:40 a.m. and hiked to the edge of a nearby pond to wait for the sunrise. The dawning was pretty (really, is there ever an ugly one?), but not the killer sunrise I had hoped for. With no shots taken, I gathered my gear and headed home

Sunrise over pond...almost but not quite

Walking back in the early morning light, I crossed into a field bursting with striking yellow goldenrod and intensely purple ironweed. Out of the corner of my eye, I spotted something that didn’t fit (that is how I usually search for subject matter). Upon closer inspection, I saw a smooth green snake weaving around a stalk of goldenrod – a great shot, certainly worthy of a place On A RollI dropped to my knees in the tall grass and wrestled the tripod into place. I was focusing on the snake when I heard a strange, faint “buuuaaazzzz.”

I peered through the tall grass – where I was crouching, the vegetation was above eye level – searching for what I thought must be a bumblebee (or something else making an unfamiliar sound).


I returned my attention to the snake, but the noise came again, only louder.

Smooth Green Snake (Opheodrys vernalis) in Goldenrod

Again, I looked...nothing. Again, back to the snake. Then again, the strange sound, but louder still. Okay, whatever it was had my attention.

I stopped and stared in the direction of the sound and heard a rustling in the grass. Still down on my knees, I could not see very far. There it was, the sound again, but very close now, and I could see the grass, goldenrod, and ironweed moving.

Suddenly two huge eyes appeared, literally five feet away from me, followed by a soft black nose and two white ears. A fawn, certainly no more than three weeks old, was staring me down, unsure what I was. The little face was framed by dew-covered grass and flowers, creating a scene right out of a Disney movie.

I moved to shift the camera, but the little fawn turned and jumped. Then he (or she) came back again, still bleating and obviously looking for his mother. It was apparent I couldn’t get a shot from where I was kneeling so I stood up slowly, still in a state of wonder and amazement. The fawn jumped through the grass, going back and forth and heading to the nearby woods.

Even though I didn’t get the shot for On A Roll, that memory will be etched into my mind forever. To come that close to a wild fawn in the wilderness, hear his soft little “bleats,” and have his curious eyes meet mine was a thrilling, magical experience, such a special moment that it really doesn’t crush me that I didn’t get the shot.

After all, I will always have the memory. And for once, I can make the statement, 
“You should’ve been here this morning!”   

15) Red-tailed Hawk Panting - (H)
Madison County
August 4, 2011, 7:23 pm
Clear, 96 degrees
500mm w/2xTC , 1/200@f8, Tripod
16) White-tailed Deer - (H)
Madison County
August 18, 2011, 9:58 am
Clear, 87 degrees
500mm, 1/15@f4, Tripod

17) Gulf Fritillary on Sunflower - (H)
Madison County
August 18, 2011, 10:53 am
Overcast, 89 degrees
17-35mm, 1/160@f5.6,  Hand Held

18) Praying Mantis - (V)
        Madison County

       August 18, 2011, 4:00 pm

        Cloudy, 81 degrees

        180mm, 1/500@f5.6,  Tripod

19) Green Tree Frog Resting - (H)
Madison County
August 22, 2011, 3:52 pm
Clear, 99 degrees
60mm, 1/2@f13, Tripod
20) Ruby-throated Hummingbird - (H)
Madison County
August 22, 2011, 5:12 pm
Clear, 99 degrees
500mm, 1/40@f4, Tripod
21) Smooth Green Snake - (H)
Madison County
August 23, 2011, 6:57 am
Cloudy, 77 degrees
17-35mm, 1/10@f9, Tripod

(photos shot with IPhone)

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