Roller coaster of wildlife photography

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There is an indescribable euphoria that comes with photographing animals in their wild habitat.

Photography used to be a lot simpler.

I’d remember to take pictures, or not. They would turn out, or not. Either way there was minimal investment of energy … or joy for that matter.

Somewhere along the way I started to care a lot more. I should have known this would turn into an emotional roller coaster. Don’t get me wrong, I still thoroughly enjoy being in nature but there’s something about capturing wildlife images that makes a good day fantastic.

Since I have a tiny tendency to analyze things a lot, I have condensed my roller coaster to a mere seven steps. Buckle up:

  1. Concentration and unwavering focus while wandering around looking for wildlife – eyes peeled, staring down every unusual rock or branch in case anything moves. Spoiler alert – the rock usually wins the staring contest.
  2. Euphoria from an adrenaline rush as I spot something and scramble to set up my camera and me. Do I have more than a few seconds to react?
  3. Contentment as I enter another world comprised of just me and a beautiful creature. Time stands still as I’m taking photos, checking the histogram and making adjustments.
  4. Excitement during a quick review of photos on the camera as I temporarily forget that just about everything looks good on the relatively small camera screen.
  5. Anticipation during the first look at RAW images on the computer often becomes the painful process of scrolling through hundreds of photos. Who took all these photos that look exactly the same and why?
  6. Disappointment when nothing seems to quite match my memory, even after the first round of edits. I briefly entertain thots of taking up lawn bowling.
  7. Satisfaction when I return to the photos after leaving them for a few days and discover there are a few blog-worthy photos after all. Yes! I savour the photo and flash back to the moment every time I see it. Soon enough I am launched into the crazy process of trying to write a blog post which is an entirely different story.

I emerge from this emotional roller coaster tired but happy. In some strange way, each step is addicting and pushes me further along the journey toward a goal that keeps creeping forward.

I have to run. I hear the roller coaster calling my name.

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I had to repeat step seven a number of times but eventually I found this photo which I quite like. Why didn’t it show up in step five?

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Latest Comments

  1. Stefano says:

    Kyle,
    First of all, thank you very much for stopping by Clicks & Corks and liking my polar bear image: much appreciated 🙂
    Second of all, I am even more thankful because that led me to discover your blog which is absolutely awesome and which I am now folloing! I love both your exquisite photography and the commentaries.
    In regard to this specific post, I particularly like it because bears are among my favorite animals and I love photographing them: your images of the brown bear are just wonderful.
    Finally, I can totally relate to your thought process as you described it, and I think that pretty much every serious – and therefore by definition obsessive 😉 wildlife photographer goes through most if not all of your seven steps 🙂
    Thanks again, and glad I found you!

    Like

    • lylekrahn says:

      Pretty hard not to like that polar bear image! Bears are also among my favourite animals so they keep showing up on my blog. Thanks for all your nice comments – really appreciate that.

      Obsessive is a good word for the whole process but the results can be so rewarding. Only people who have gone through it all can understand.

      Like

  2. drifting says:

    Beautiful shots of the bear and I totally understand your thought processes. I envy you the opportunities to take such photos. Wildlife here in NZ pretty much just consists of small birds, which are difficult to photograph.

    Like

    • lylekrahn says:

      I appreciate the comments. Yes birds can be quite difficult to photograph. I was really fortunate last spring when we went to the mountains and I had lots of opportunities to get bear shots.

      Like

  3. Sid Dunnebacke says:

    You never disappoint, Lyle – not with your pictures and not with your commentary. And item #2 up there? There are some profound truths there. I’ll just go ahead and speak for all of us and say we’re glad you go through the rigamarole of all seven steps.

    Like

    • lylekrahn says:

      Thank you for those generous comments. I suppose I’m drawn to the euphoria like a moth to the flame so the rigamarole is overcome. I’d hate to disappoint you:)

      Like

  4. caleephotography says:

    Thanks for sharing this! I totally recognize myself as well.. 😉 But how on earth could you miss this fantastic bear picture, it’s excellent!! 🙂

    Like

    • lylekrahn says:

      I’m glad you liked it but too bad you don’t have an easier time of it.
      I have theories on how I missed bear photo but really don’t know. I took a huge number of photos of that bear, many of them looked so similar and I was pretty excited and focused on the ones where it stood on its hind legs. Coming back to the photos gives me a fresh perspective I suppose. It’s happened before which makes me cautious about mass deletions.

      Like

  5. adrienphoto says:

    Greats shots !!! i like your work! there is a lot of interessant pictures !! congratulations !

    Like

  6. Galen Leeds Photography says:

    It really does all look so good on that little screen. I’m glad you also got many that look so good on this bigger screen

    Like

    • lylekrahn says:

      Thanks. The number of good ones sure drop off on the bigger screen but I’m always happy when something works. Maybe someday they will design a camera screen that matches the look of a larger screen.

      Like

  7. Fotografin Thee Ballmer says:

    Thanks for giving me a good time to read this:-D . First I thought, you sneaked into my brain and you have stolen my feelings and my thinking .-) Exactly the way I feel and exactly the same process I go through. I had a smile while reading about the euphoria and afterwards the: AHA moment while editing.
    I like the bear and I’m jealous, this creature is still missing in my collection: Animals from Canada.
    wish you good shots, lots of patient and fun, Thee

    Like

    • lylekrahn says:

      Thanks for the best wishes and I certainly hope you get the opportunity to shot a bear someday. It’s a lot of fun. I was interested to hear that you go through the same process with photos – perhaps it is not as unusual as I thot. Thanks so much for the comments.

      Like

  8. Mike Powell says:

    Thanks again, Lyle. You do a great job in helping me to understand this strange compulsion, this unusual addiction that keeps drawing me outside with my camera with the undying optimism that something good will happen that I will be able to capture in an image. Sometimes it does happen and you describe so well the sense of euphoria that overwhelms us. Even if we return empty-handed, we are compelled by inner forces to go back out again. As I think about it, what makes us different from many of the others who surround us is that we live with hope as we pursue, to use your words, “a goal that keeps creeping forward.”

    Like

    • lylekrahn says:

      It is a strange compulsion and, to be honest, I’m a bit surprised that the comments so strongly reflect that common chord. Those inner forces are powerful and it’s nice to share ideas with people who are also driven by them.

      Like

  9. hannele says:

    sounds very familiar! 5 – yes. someone must’ve cloned the same photo somehow and it ended up in my camera. 7 – yes! but sometimes it takes me more than a few days… returning to photos from a few years back can bring forward some really nice pictures, too. when i look through photos after a trip, i sometimes don’t realize how amazing the things i caught on camera actually were. a long time away from the shots helps.

    Like

    • lylekrahn says:

      I’ve certainly done all that too. Time away seems to really help with getting a better perspective especially, as you say, to see how amazing thing were when they are not quite so familiar.

      Like

  10. Scott Marshall says:

    Now I imagine it is different doing it – but I don’t get the same buzz with nature (unless it’s a bird of prey) but I do love seeing nature shots framed like landscapes and the first shot where the bear peers over the grass bank is sublime. It is more like an animal candid portrait. Superb.

    Like

    • lylekrahn says:

      Glad you liked it. That’s the trouble, I’m often trying to get that casual candid portrait of a creature that’s mostly interested in eating or wandering off! Like you, I don’t get the same buzz from a landscape but there is rather a sense of contentment of being in a beautiful place.

      Like

  11. artsifrtsy says:

    Man – ain’t it the truth – I usually wait a day or two to even look these days. The ride is worth it though!

    Like

  12. Phil Lanoue says:

    Fantastic shot Lyle, makes it all worthwhile doesn’t it?! 🙂

    I’ll tell ya how (one of) my thought processes work…when I’m not out there it bothers the heck out of me and all I can think about is that all kinds of stuff is most likely going on that I am now missing. Of course I know I can’t *always* be out there, but figure all the really good action probably happens when I’m not.

    Like

    • lylekrahn says:

      It does make it worthwhile and dulls the memory until the next cycle. I can only image the wildlife party that breaks out as soon as we leave. Now how am I going to get that thot out of my head?

      Like

  13. danielyapsl says:

    A roller coaster ride that you will always return to, regardless.
    =)

    Like

  14. davidharris518 says:

    So very very true. The whole process can be ardous — and very frustrating — at times, but it’s also very, very addiciting. You get that one great image and that spurs you on, and sets you up to repeat the entire vicious cycle all over again. Lather, rinse, repeat, so to speak.

    Like

    • lylekrahn says:

      Your vivid description clearly shows we share the same issues. It is fascinating that one good photo can motivate us to keep going through all that frustration. The wash cycle is a good metaphor.

      Like

  15. Simone Lipscomb says:

    What about adding a step about insect bites and poison ivy?

    Great post and so true.

    Like

    • lylekrahn says:

      Good point. Some days my can of insect repellent is the most important camera gear that I take along, or forget! In the interest of condensing the steps I skipped over a bunch of things but I didn’t want to make it seem too dramatic. Thanks for the comment.

      Like

  16. Seenorwaynorway says:

    I fully recognize my own feelings in what you write here 🙂 but that’s the name of the game! I think we will all strive to take ever better photos, the problem being that our ‘targets’ doesn’t know that! 🙂

    Like

  17. sethsnap says:

    Beautiful shot.

    Like

  18. Jeff | Planet Bell says:

    #5 is so accurate, for me at two different times. Time #1: when I first review the photos as you say in your post. Time #2: About 3 years later when my hard drive is getting full and I need to delete some photos.

    The bear photo is excellent, special. How did you miss that one the first time through?

    Like

    • lylekrahn says:

      I also review photos when a hard drive is filling fast and just got a bigger one to give me some breathing space. Glad you liked the bear photo. I have theories on how I missed it but really don’t know. I took a lot of photos of that bear, many of them looked so similar and I was pretty excited and focused on the ones where it stood on its hind legs. Coming back to the photos gives me a fresh perspective and it’s happened before. That’s why I sometimes get cautious deleting photos but of course then the hard drive fills up again.

      Like

  19. Kodiak My Little Grizzly says:

    Love grizzlys!!!! Very cool photos!!!!!

    Like

  20. vanbraman says:

    I totally understand your thought process. I find myself thinking more about what to take pictures of instead of just having fun taking the pictures I want to take. I hope that makes sense :-).

    Like

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