What Big Eyes You Have

Based on the recent feedback from the Wildlife Prairie Park shoot, it appears that Badgers are not that appealing to my readers.  In addition, what I thought was simply a collection of cute and cuddly goslings conjure up images of horror that have been unsuccessfully suppressed.  Well, there is only one thing left to do and that is to bring out the big boys.  I am actually torn between deciding what was more exciting that day at the park.  The rare sighting of the Badger was definitely a highlight, but the time we spent at the Wolf exhibit is tough to beat.  Compared to all the times we have been to WPP and all the times we have experienced other captive Wolves, nothing stacks up against the awesome setting one of the Wolves chose to pass away the day.

This is one of those shots I could stare at all day.  Truth be told, I’ll get that chance since almost all of the shots in this set were sent out for prints based on the results out of the digital darkroom.  It was pretty sunny out that day and the Wolves were pretty lethargic having had their big meal for the week.  For those new to the Park, they tend to feed them on Sundays – guessing that consists of deer roadkill and other raw meat based on the bones the Wolves  keep a very protective watch over.  The Wolf above decided to help us out a bit and walked over to the tree line out of the harsh light.

Pure gold from a photographer’s perspective.  The observation platform sits above the enclosure giving us a means to shoot through the foliage.   The specific spot it picked to take a rest filtered out the harsh light but left enough ambient light to easily pull out the fur details.  Further benefiting the shoot, it remained alert providing a variety of facial expressions and head position.  After awhile, I became to question exactly who was watching who.

Be sure and hit the jump to see even more shots of the WPP Wolves

Notice the difference in the overall feelings between the images.  Simply a slightly different head position or a tilt of the ears can elicit a different emotion.  One image might give wonderment on what might be so interesting outside the frame where another one (saaaay the one above) might give the urge to move a little further away.  Or in the case below, maybe “Hey you puny human with your big glass take a hike so I can get my beauty sleep”

In case you are wondering, I think this was the Alpha of the pack.  The other Wolves tended to keep their distance taking a wide arc when their pacing took them too close.  They also did not mess with any of the bones it had claimed.  Contrasting that with some of the other Wolves which would get up the nerve to try and steal bones from their pack mates.  I spared you the shot of one Wolf’s bold statement – that Wolf (a she) walked over to a bone next to another wolf and promptly took a whiz on it.  Clearly an effective method to claim ownership of something… but then again, is that something really worth possessing now?  We’ll just assume it was done in spite and not as an ownership thing.  Note, it never came back for it the entire time we were there.

After taking about 1,000 shots at full zoom, decided to pull back a little bit and get a different perspective.  Glad I did that because the next shot turned out to be another favorite.  Granted it would have been even better if the two blades of grass had been moved over just a few inches, but it took a little bit of maneuvering effort to get the shot as clear as it is.

Makes you want to jump down, give it a big hug and take it home doesn’t it?  … or not (hehehe).  Now time for audience participation.  The shots above are positioned in a way that the viewer could be considered the center of attention for the Wolf.  That happens to be my personal preference when it comes to composition which I’ve mentioned many times before.  What is your take on this particular style.. do you prefer a more passive composition like the shot below?

Or how about a more formal portrait look?

I should point out that the shot above is a fine example of how convenient this particular spot was.  The harsh sun finally found its way through the canopy blasting a hole right through the sensor.  I left the shot in the mix even though there was some definite loss of detail there – I actually really like the shot other than that and would probably crop it tighter if I decided to go ahead and print it.  Next time I’m back in the digital darkroom I’ll probably take a few minutes and apply a filter on it and see if there is any detail in the RAW file that could be pulled out.  Lesson number one boys and girls – ALWAYS shoot in RAW.

By the way, I’m consciously not commenting on the gorgeous eyes on this particular wolf because that will be a key topic in an upcoming post.  This is actually a two-for set but more on that in the future.  I had to chuckle to myself at the end of the prep work for the shots on this post.  The first shot I worked on was the following.

At the time, I was thinking it was a pretty good shot and excited about getting it out on the blog.  Once all the processing was done on the rest of the shots it ended up being the weakest one of the bunch (and not just due to the ear clip – bad Bri, bad).  It just doesn’t illicit the same feelings as the other shots .. maybe it’s the brown eyes.

… or perhaps Alphas are just way cooler….

yep, that’s probably it.

My ass has a big bruise on it thanks to a self inflicted kick in the ass on the shot above.  That could have been the gallery shot for the competition circuit this year had I executed it correctly (a certain someone would have been trembling) – instead I was left with a less than crispy shot.   Damn it damn it damn it.  Oh well, I look at photography as a endless journey to get better.  Based on this shot I’ve got a loooooong way to go.  Still like the expression – just stand back a little and you will appreciate it a little more.

Hope you enjoyed looking at these truly majestic animals.  Pay them a visit if you happen to be in the area or maybe join us as members of the National Wolf Foundation (link here) and/or the Yellowstone Association (link here).

2 thoughts on “What Big Eyes You Have”

  1. Wow, these are all great shots! The first three are the best, and having looked back and forth a bit, I think I may like the first one best. Or maybe the second. Or the third. In this case I like the ones where the wolf is looking at us because of the sensitivity of the expression. The expression exactly matches that of a cat. The last one is cute, but as you say it isn’t sharp.

    Here’s a couple more animal stories, little Tommy. I was driving the night shift on a college Spring Break trip to Florida, and suddenly I saw a cat in the headlights on the interstate highway in Georgia. Now here was a quandary. I could swerve at the last second, and it was wet, or I could run right over the cat and avoid danger. It was a pretty cat, that. Too bad.

    Here’s a happier story. I was in Cleveland one summer in college, and it was pouring, just sheets of rain. Unbelievable. I was just pulling away from a bank teller drive-thru window and as I drove past the corner I caught sight of a large retriever or setter running out just before I hit him. Man, did I feel bad after I felt a really hard thud. Not seeing any activity through the blinding rain, I felt obligated to open my door just a bit to see if he was still lying in front of my car. And then this huge dog with long, soaking hair jumps into the car right on my lap and freaks me out. You can imagine us jammed between the seat and steering wheel with water all over him and me and the sheets of rain coming in. I think he’s going to kill me or something for hitting him and he starts licking my face. I spent five minutes trying to push him out of the driver’s seat, and I was so wet from him jumping around that I couldn’t even see out of my glasses. By the time I got the dog back outside and the door closed I was absolutely soaking wet and the entire driver’s seat was all wet, too. What a disaster.

    Let’s see. I still remember someone in my Sigma Pi pledge class throwing a regulation football about 50 yards at a squirrel and actually nailing him! That was improbable and very impressive. It certainly made an impression on the squirrel.

    I will have to muse to remember other animal stories. Meanwhile, thanks for the beautiful wolf pictures!



  2. Good lord, I’m surrounded by bloodthirsty humans!!

    So in the first animal cruelty story it appears you were going to fast for conditions and KILLED an innocent cat. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been in the car with Linda had to stomp on my passenger brake to narrowly avoid smashing one of God’s creatures… followed by a couple of miles worth of discussion on what the little pedal to the right of the accelerator is actually for.

    I also can’t believe you crush the side of a dog and then proceeded to kick him back out into the rain. You could have at least driven him to the nearest McDonalds and bought him some fries for the trauma and months of therapy it was in for. Do you have to wear like 4 shirts at a time to keep that cold heart warm?

    .. for the record I would have loved to seen that football throw – based on what I saw of the Blue Boys, guessing he wasn’t on the team (too good hehehe)

    Okay, one more story since this seems to be the theme of the month. A friend of mine admitted to this little ditty that I have never forgotten. He drove a hot rod (Chevelle or Charger .. can’t remember) and appreciated the horsepower. Per his account, one early morning he was rounding a corner and noticed out of the corner of his eye to dogs chasing each other with tails a wagging and smiles on their muzzles. The lead dog made it past his bumper, but the chaser took it full on killing it instantly. He came to a stop and noticed the first dog looking back at his playmate is complete mourning whimpering and pawing at the ground. Not know what to do, he decided the owner of the dog lived at the house from the direction they were running from so picked up the deceased dog and walked up to the porch and knocked on the door. I totally admired his willingness to do this considering how difficult that discussion was going to be. Unfortunately, that discussion never happened because no one came to the door. He admits he wasn’t in the best frame of mind having a dog of his own and not thinking the most rational. He wanted to make sure the owner at least noticed the tragedy in order to give it some dignity in death so laid it out very serenely on the porch by the door. As he started walking off the porch he noticed the paper was there and for some stress impaired reasoning (his words) he decided it would improve the chances of getting noticed if he placed the paper in the dog’s paws. He has regretted doing that every time he thinks back on it. I have ALWAYS wondered just how that scene played out in the morning – guessing utter sadness with an incorrect assumption someone killed it on purpose and was sick in twisted to want to glorify it.

    best intentions ….

    Thanks for the comment.. stay tuned, I think you will like an upcoming post – some of these pics received some extra treatment that really made them pop.


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