Beyond The Campfire was created to encourage readers to explore the great outdoors and to look at it more closely. Get out and take a hike, go fishing or canoeing, or simply stretch out on a blanket under a summer sky...and take your camera along. We'll talk about combining outdoor activities with photography. We'll look at everything from improving your understanding of the basics to more advanced techniques including things like how to see photographically and capturing the light. We'll explore the night sky, location shoots, using off camera speedlights along with nature and landscape. Grab your camera...strap on your hiking boots...and join me. I think you will enjoy the adventure.

The Pilot

The Pilot
The Pilot

Friday, December 3, 2010

Too Close Encounter

About five or six years ago I started seriously photographing Oklahoma's Tallgrass Prairie preserve.  It's an amazing landscape full of not just scenic bounty, but a rich, diverse history as well.  It's 38,000 acres is the largest protected area of original tallgrass prairie that remains.

The best way to photograph this area is to observe it up close...to explore the hidden arroyo's and fields of wildflowers away from the gravel access road.  By hiking into the interior, a whole new world is opened.  It's during those times the song of the prairie becomes vivid and real.  I've taken thousands of photo's there...sat for hours under the shade of an isolated red cedar tree...simply listened to the wind and the sounds of the open range.  It's an amazing experience.

On one such excursion, I experienced something that was not only amazing...but a bit unnerving.  I had hiked a mile or so into an area where an arroyo  cuts through the rolling hills.  I spent most of the morning in there photographing this and that, but mostly just enjoying being out.  By late morning it started to warm up so I worked my way out of there.  I had to climb up the long face of a shallow hill and as I moved around to the south side I discovered that a herd of about 100 or so bison had wandered between me and my Jeep effectively blocking my way out.

It was not a good idea to attempt passing through the herd so I backtracked a ways and stepped down into a dry creek bed.  Using the creek bed I figured I would just circle around and come out a bit further north then cut over to the road.  After walking several hundred yards I stepped out of the creek bed.  My view was limited while down in there so I didn't see that the northern flank of the bison herd was still blocking my route...as were two rather large bison bulls.  They were about 50 maybe 60 yards away.

Well..I sort of spooked them...if there is such a thing as spooking twin 2000 pound bison bulls...and they took offense to me being there.  I may have spooked them, but I certainly didn't intimidate them as they began to snort and act all agitated.  Normally they are rather docile...but these two guys wanted to express their displeasure about my presence personally.

I tried to slowly back away and reenter the creek bed, but before I could do so the two bulls busted and they started running...accompanied by the rest of the assorted 100 or so others in their company...right at me.  All I had to hide behind was a rather flimsy camera tripod...which wasn't much comfort.  For a few seconds I simply stood there...well...actually there wasn't much else I could have done short of running...and I wsn't going to outrun those guys...but fortunately, the entire herd veered away after 25 or 30 yards and ran off in the opposite direction.

I moved on down the creek bed another hundred yards or so then worked my way back to the road and eventually to my Jeep.  Those two bulls never took their eyes off me...nor I them.  I must admit though...it was an exhilarating experience to be so close to such wild, powerful, and magnificent creatures.  I took not a single photograph of the entire event...I was a bit preoccupied trying to avoid becoming a permanent addition to the Tallgrass Prairie landscape.

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