I was up at the Niobrara Valley Preserve much of this week. One morning, I wandered up into the bison pasture to photograph some bugs and flowers. About the time the sun was getting a little intense for macro photos, I decided to drive up the hill to see if any bison were nearby. Sure enough, a small group of 50 or so was quietly grazing a couple hills to the south.
Based on the way the bison were situated and acting, I figured my best chance for photos would come if I went around to the west of them. They were very slowly moving in that direction, and often, I can get way out in front of them and sit still while they calmly work their way past me. The position of the sun meant I was going to be shooting them with backlighting, which is tricky, but can create some really interesting images if I do it right.
Just when I start to think I understand bison and the way they think, they make me feel like a complete fool. I pulled around to the west of the herd, shut off the engine and got out my camera. I glanced up, expecting to see them sauntering over the crest of the hill between us, but instead saw the lead animals thundering down the slope right at me. Wha??
I was in a vehicle, so not in danger, but it was still a little unnerving. I also had very little time to get my shots in. I missed the first wave, but as a second and third portions of the group hit the top of the hill, I was ready. I even managed to get some of them in focus. For you photographers, I was shooting a little dark (the images looked awfully dark on my LCD screen), knowing I’d open up those shadows later in Photoshop. I knew I needed to avoid letting too much light in because I’d lose a lot of details in the background. I’m really happy with the results.
After that crazy 10 or 20 seconds of action, the animals immediately settled down and grazed calmly around me as I caught my breath and took a few more photos. Then they wandered slowly off into the hills again. Just like I knew they would…