The Thrill of Shooting Babies

RELAX! RELAX!… that’s just a clever hook to get you to walk in the door.  Although I’m comfortable behind a handgun or rifle, I was referring to my other hobby – “shooting” wildlife with my CAMERA.  Clearly the big game and birds dominate our photo outings, but every once in awhile we are lucky enough to have the smaller subjects drop by the house for some quick posing.  This is exactly what happened back in June.  I was piddling around (Linda’s words) when I stumbled upon one seriously pissed off raccoon.  Now I am not a big fan of adult raccoons firmly believing that they are one evolution away from throwing us off the top of the food chain.  They clearly spend their free time thinking of clever ways to wreak havoc on our house – especially the bird feeders (and not wasting it on Internet searches for Hank Williams Jr.)  .  Fortunately for them, I have a golden rule – The Young Shall Not Be Harmed Nor Adults In Company Of Their Young.  I know the consequences when they become adults, but everyone should have a right to enjoy the innocent years.  The 8 baby mice that I came across in our propane tank lid resulting in having to spent 45 minutes rounding up and coaxing their mom to lead each to safety last month can attest to this (probably should be some commas in that beast of a sentence).  I know that some will make it to adulthood to drive me nuts but convictions are convictions.

I’ve had enough encounters with raccoon mothers to know when babies are close.  Like this one they turn nasty and start hissing and baring their teeth.  Due to being an evolution away, they eventually recognize their shortcomings and try to draw the danger away.   If you simply stand your ground they eventually give up and head for safety.  Don’t be fooled, they do not go very far but create enough distance from you that you tend to forget they are out there.  Whenever this happens I start looking to the trees to see what was worth trying to protect.  One thing their mother’s always teach their offspring – when in trouble take the high ground.  This eliminates a large number of threats around here and cats pretty much want no part of this game.  Sure enough, not far from where I was standing was this:

How cute is that!  As much damage their parents have done around here I’m going to get a little benefit.  Linda happened to come out of the house at the same time so I had her grab the camera.  Raccoon babies are excellent photographic subjects.  They tend to stay stationary and have a cute factor that is through the roof.  The struggle with this one was getting the composition right – no matter which angle I took there were leaves in the way (not too surprising since we do live in the woods).  The wind was also blowing adding another factor to the mix.  A few minutes into the shot we were greeted with another surprise.

Score – double cuteness.  They were fairly calm about the whole ordeal likely due to the fact I’d come upon them before and let them pass without harm – no camera then though.  Our attention kept them very alert.  Their ears were nicely tuned forward and for the most part they kept those eyes wide open (very glint friendly).  See that paw clinched onto the tree?  Should this particular baby make it to adulthood, that paw will be continually testing all my bird feeder protections.  Note, when looking some information up on these critters I was shocked to learn that they do NOT have an opposable thumb yet since I was a kid always thought they did – another childhood education fallacy in the vein of the Brontosaurus and Pluto – they may actually be more than one evolution away now.

There’s more (literally) .. hit the jump!

Wait a minute… what’s that?

Did you notice something else in that shot?  Like a suspicious ear further up the tree.

Wow, it’s a three-for.  The following is my favorite shot of the lot.  I wish the stem had not eclipsed the nose on the bottom but all in all not bad for all the weeds and branches that were in the area.

The new one seems to be conveying “Are you about done yet, we want to go back to our mommy who is probably worried sick about now?”  Just a few more shots just in case I screwed up some manual settings (foreshadowing).  It is hard to tell how good the shots are just from the LCD so spares are always recommended.  Besides they should be ecstatic that I found them and not my neighbors.  They have a different philosophy than I – The Only Good Bandit Is A Dead Bandit.  This of course significantly reduces their chances of making it to adulthood and where natural selection begins to take root – the only ones that make it are the ones capable of outsmarting those living around me.  If you are curious, my gracious view is not well received around here.

Wait a minute, what is this I see through the glass?

Now this is a banner day.  Not one, not two, not even three but FOUR baby raccoons.  Count Von Count would be very proud of me.  So here is the sad reality of all this.  I’ve had the privilege (or misfortune per your perspective) of observing lots of kits and there seems to be a common themes regarding the characteristics of the litter.  Typically there is a dominant one that shows greater curiosity and less fear than the others.  Then there is inevitably the timid one who gets frightened at the drop of a leaf – this one is generally easier to distinguish due to being smaller in stature – guessing less drive to take risks getting food.  The remaining ones fall in between these two states.  Over the course of the summer we have the opportunity to see how they are doing … especially if you have feeders in the yard.  These traits allow you to recognize them and name them if you are so inclined – I stopped doing that long ago to eliminate the emotion when the litter starts shrinking.  Any guesses as to which ones tend to make it the longest?  If you guessed the fearless one you are absolute wrong – these are the first to be culled either being overeager on the road or not staying far enough away from us.  If you think the timid one due to the reduction in encounters — sorry wrong too.  They tend to starve off or possibly not strong enough to evade predators – whatever the case is they tend to disappear pretty quickly as well.  My money is always on those with a healthy mixture of boldness and fear.  If I was a carny, I’d put the life expectancy of the top one the shortest, followed by the one below it and with the best chance of survival on the bottom two.  They were not enjoyed by the fact we were pointing the glass at them, but were in enough control to keep their eyes on us.

Truth be told, the shot above is not the best technical shot but it had a very difficult beginning.  The composition was one of the better ones of the lot and didn’t want to throw it out without seeing what kind of cleanup I could do in the digital darkroom.  On the whole I think it came out much better than expected seeing as how it started out as a black mess.. translated a screw up.

Want to improve your photography (and decrease your bank account) instantly .. get Lightroom and Photoshop.  You will thank me later.

One final thought before I let you get back to your regularly scheduled programming.  Photography is a learning journey for us.  It’s been a long way since the days of film and light years to go before being comfortable in all the nuances in the digital age.  The process of putting this post together provided an opportunity to add a tidbit of composition knowledge into the bag.  The following two shots were taken very close to each other but they provided two different impressions.   Take a gander yourself and let me know if you have the same thought.

My viewpoint is the first one almost has that submission/fear feeling to it where the second one exudes more of the inquisitive/confident look.  The core body posture is exactly the same, the ears are equally positioned and the eyes are all open.  I think the key  is the slight different in the head position.  The first one is tilted more upward and the last one is more directly aligned with the viewer.  I may be all wet here, but just something to think about when out in the field.

I was going  to leave you with a few lines from the Rocky Raccoon song but I puked while reading it – seriously, people like that band? ugh

2 thoughts on “The Thrill of Shooting Babies”

  1. Very cute! I agree with your assessment of the last two photos. And I don’t think the stem is a problem at all in that picture, it just highlights their shyness.

    Ron

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  2. I still can’t believe people are so eager to kill these little guys/gals. Oh well, to each his own, but the smart ones will stay on my property until they get older. To carry this story out a little, a week later there was only three in the group. About a month or two later we came back from vacation and there was two left – found the carcass of one in the yard while I was mowing – guessing it lost a race with a coyote. The other two were seen a few more times without their mother and then they were gone. I’ll assume they made it down to the park and living a life of luxury.

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