There’s nothing quite as exhilarating as being out and taking pictures in a natural setting. That is, until nature decides that it doesn’t really want you there. Some elements encountered in nature would just as soon you stay home.
As beautiful and thrilling as it can be shooting out in nature, not everything one encounters is exactly hospitable to the presence of humans. Granted, in most of North America we don’t have to worry about too many predatory creatures such as lions and tigers and angry rhinoceros. There are plenty of other animals, though, both wild and marginally domesticated, that can still do a very good job of ruining one’s day. For the sake of this conversation, I’ll just stick to the ones I’ve personally encountered.
Snakes. Snakes are one of the primary reasons I prefer to wear boots when tramping about through nature’s most wild and crazy settings. Sure, there are bigger snakes elsewhere, such as the Amazon (we’ve dealt with those, too), but it’s the ability of most snakes in North America to sneak up on one that requires a fair amount of caution, especially when temps get on the warmer side. Aside from the well-known rattler, who doesn’t make a sound until it’s poised and in position to strike, there are plenty of other varieties that pack a punch as well. I still remember a particular encounter with a cotton-mouth that gives me chills. I nearly stepped on the thing, it was that well hidden.
Alligators. Granted, we’re not too terribly likely to encounter these less-than-neighborly beasts in the Midwest, but they’re sufficiently scattered all across the swamps of the South, which were for several years the preferred place to shoot when wanting a dark, eerie setting. As with snakes, it is the gator’s ability to be stealthy, to float along just under the water, invisible until ready to attack, that presents the greatest danger. We never made the mistake of actually putting a model in any water where alligators might be a threat, but we have had them attack oars and even bump the flat-bottom boat in which we were sitting. One wrong move, and … (shudder).
Bulls. No, they’re not exactly wild and one does normally have sufficient warning regarding their location. They do present an occasional challenge, though, when working in a rural setting, trying to get that wide-open spaces look. Sometimes someone leaves a gate open by accident. Other times they just forget to tell you the bull is there. Not all bulls are aggressive, either. Short horns that are actively being bred are more likely to be an issue because, despite all the years of domestication, they still have an instinctive need to protect what they assume is theirs. When angered, there’s no deterring them, either. I’ve seen them attack trucks, tractors, and even large bails of hay just dropped in the pasture. Prevention is key. Shut the damn gate behind you.
There are other threats, to be sure, but they tend to be more easily addressed. I hear moose can be a problem when shooting up North, though I’ve never encountered an aggressive one. Bears can also be problematic but I’ve had good luck there, never coming across one that was close enough we couldn’t retreat quietly.
Nature is beautiful and provides great scenery for fantastic images, but we must be aware that the land on which we shoot is not our home, but it is that of other creatures and it is unreasonable to think they wouldn’t protect it. Nature can be quite aggressive when threatened. Sometimes, we do best to leave well enough alone and find a different place to shoot.