I have very few photos of deer. Clarification: I have very few GOOD photos of deer. I suppose that’s because I’ve never actually gone looking for deer photos. Instead, I try to photograph deer opportunistically as I’m out looking for more interesting things like stink bugs or purple poppy mallow flowers.
Because of that, most of my deer photos are of the rear ends of deer running away from me. I suppose that if I walked around with my telephoto lens on all the time, I might have a few more good deer images. There have been numerous times when I’ve spooked a deer out of tall grass or other cover and watched it run ten or twenty yards, turn to look at me briefly (NOW! TAKE THE PICTURE NOW!) and then sprint out of sight. If I’d been ready, I might have gotten a few decent shots from those opportunities. But no. My lens for wandering through the prairie is my macro lens, or less often, my wide angle lens to try to capture prairie scenics.
While in the Nebraska Sandhills this summer, I got several opportunities for wildlife photos that I didn’t really earn – other than by being there, which is no small thing. On separate occasions, I got really close to a prairie dog and a red-tailed hawk and ended up with very nice images of both. A mule deer doe gave me a third opportunity during a June trip to the Sandhills.
I got up early in the morning, hoping for nice light. After climbing to the top of a steep hill, I was rewarded by a fantastic sunrise. Once the sunlight brightened a little, I spent time looking for yucca and other flowers to photograph, but didn’t find much that interested me. As I was about ready to give up and head back down the hill for breakfast, I looked up and spotted a mule deer watching me from the top of the next hill. I called good morning to her and she didn’t run away, so I replaced my macro lens with my telephoto and started a very slow approach.
I spent maybe ten minutes zig zagging back and forth across the space between us, pretending not to be at all interested in her, and she just watched me. Whenever she would twitch nervously, I’d stop and examine a flower or blade of grass – just to make it clear I wasn’t stalking her. Eventually, I got within about twenty yards and started taking photos. During the next ten minutes she walked around a little bit, keeping a sharp eye on me, but she didn’t act like she felt threatened. She finally moved downhill enough that she was out of the direct sunlight, and since I’d already gotten way more photos of her than I deserved, I wished her a good day and walked away.
I must have taken more than 100 photos of that doe during that ten minutes we spent close to each other. It was hard to select just three for this post because nearly all of them were nice. Good light, a tripod, and a subject that stands still and looks at you makes photography pretty easy. A little luck doesn’t hurt either.
…It was a pretty disappointing morning for wildflower photos, though.