It happens a lot. You're hiking, boating, driving or kayaking with camera at the ready for that unique wildlife photo, and there it is-a bobcat, bear, or fox. You raise the camera to snap the photo, and the animal is gone. That fast. Only a glimpse. The thrill is there of seeing an elusive creature in the wild, but a photo would have been great, too, to share with friends and family.
But what if you had a second chance?
On a recent kayaking trip down the upper Wacissa River, I had several wildlife sightings. My camera and 100-400 millimeter telephoto lens was at the ready in my lap and several wading birds posed for me. As long as I made no sudden movements and didn't get too close, some of the birds seemed to tolerate my presence, along with a mother alligator with a young one. I even got within ten feet or so of a yellow-crowned night heron for a close-up portrait. That was special. But I wasn't ready for the doe and spotted fawn along the shore drinking from the river. When they spotted me approaching, they retreated into the shadows before I could snap the photo.
A similar thing happened when I spotted a family of otters along the shore. Readying my camera for a photo, they slipped into the water, and that was that. I continued downriver and snapped some more bird photos. On my return trip upriver, with the sun dipping low, I slowed as I passed the otter area. They were on the bank again-four sleek full grown otters! Through an opening in the branches, I was able to snap a few photos before they spotted me and slid into the water again. Bingo! This time, I had some photographic memories to share.
As I approached the spot where the two deer had been drinking I had no such luck. They were gone, but the otters had given me a second chance and I felt grateful for that. Good wildlife photos often involve patience, stealth, persistence, and just plain luck. Kayaking in the evening during the week was another factor since there were few people on the water, so pick and choose what times you feel might work best for wildlife shots. And be ready!