I recently had the amazing opportunity of spending three weeks at the Antelope Island State Park,
located in Utah, just outside Salt Lake City. The park is known for the American Bison which was introduced to the island back in 1893. What started with 14 individuals is now, today, more than 500, one of the biggest free roaming buffalo populations in North America.
The ancestors of today’s buffaloes are believed to have come through the Bering Land Bridge about 500,000 years ago. Their population reached, the estimates vary, from around 40 million to 60 million before 1492. The arrival of the “White Man” led to commercial hunting and slaughter and by the end of 1890, their numbers had dwindled to no more than 750. Today, according to IUCN Red List, there are no more than 15,000 true wild bison in the natural range within North America (free-ranging, not confined primarily by fencing).
This legendary animal was sacred to the Native Americans. For them, the bison was a symbol of life and abundance. In many myths, the bisons gave themselves up willingly as a food source for humans. In others their spirits brought sacred knowledge about medicine or peace pipes to humankind. In many cautionary tales, buffalo hunts were unsuccessful due to the hunters’ lack of respect to the buffalo.
My goal while visiting Antelope Island was to capture the “Buffalo Spirit”.
Buffaloes have incredible sight and it is quite hard to approach them without being seen. They will wander off if they see someone approaching towards them, but if they happen to come upon you while you are waiting, chances are that you might have them pass real close.
My strategy was pretty much the same every day, find a group of bulls and determine their direction, then spot some bushes far ahead in their path, sneak – meaning either crawl or walk on all four – my way into position and wait.
This bison spotted me fairly early but slowly he continued approaching. Using a zig zag pattern, he moved forward, foraging before he then stared at me for a good 10 minutes. He moved again, foraging more and stared at me again. It went on like this for an hour until he walked just about 20 feet from where I was sitting. He stopped by a bush right behind where he proceeded to scratch his furry head. I sat there mesmerized by its presence and the depth of his look, trying to understand what was the threat that so many saw in this creature. After taking my photos, I thanked him for his time and cooperation and slowly departed. – Daniel Fox
To see more of Fox’s work, visit his website at www.wildimageproject.com and read more about his photography and his conservation efforts at his blog. Follow him on Behance, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest and Google+. Find his motion work on Vimeo and YouTube.
Equipment and settings: Canon EOS 7D, Canon EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6L IS USM telephoto zoom lens, SanDisk 34GB Extreme Pro memory card, ThinkTank Photo Retrospective 10 (Pinestone) Shoulder Bag – 1/2000th at f/4, ISO 320