The Next Generation

San Joaquin Kit Fox family

They are tiny, still gray, and seeing the world for the first time. This family of kit foxes had six pups, and I was lucky enough to get a series of shots of them outside the entrance of their den. This after many false starts, empty frames, and lousy weather. Now I know why there are so few pictures in existence of these rare animals - found only in south-central California.

One challenge with camera traps is that you have no guarantee - or control - over the composition. Triggered by invisible motion sensors, the camera just takes a picture of whatever happens to be in front of it. (The rear-end shot I posted last week is MUCH more typical than this)  It is essentially a numbers game: be prepared to shoot a lot of images to get a handful that work. After two weeks work, that's about what I got - a handful. But I learned a lot about the animals, their behavior and camera techniques that work,  and don't...  I hope to be back in the field again with them next month.

San Joaquin Kit Fox : Male stands sentry at den entrance

Nikon D300, 18-200mm lens, camera trap


    Kevin, both photos are wonderful in that they are about as natural as can be. Look at the pups. You can see the curiosity of their new surroundings in their eyes. They are just itching to explore. You can tell it’s night, when they normally come out. Mama is close by. I don’t know what it is about the dad at the entrance but I think it is a wonderfully simple yet naturally powerful photo. Simple not referring to the amount of work it took to get it but that it shows an animal in his true habitat, oblivious to humans, doing what he normally does. He probably sits there a lot. While some might say these are not “artistic”, they are REAL, showing animals doing what they do and that makes them stand out. These photos are true parts of their normal lives and they communicate that to the viewing audience, well, at least to me. My guess, and hope, is these photos might go a long way in helping these endangered animals. Super work.

    Thanks Steve, Although working with camera traps is challenging (e.g. difficult to set up, or control compositions) they do offer a glimpse of animals entirely at home in their world with an intimacy that would be impossible with a photographer present. I’m glad you like the portrait of the “Dad on sentry duty” – must be your paternal instincts kicking in. Yes, it is simple, but it is from an intimate viewpoint I have never seen before. (And, for once, it is full-frame, and in focus – that almost NEVER happens with camera traps.) Thanks for weighing in.

    Hi Robin,

    To me, they look curious and relaxed in a way that they would never be with a photographer present. This is the gift of camera traps: you can get intimate moments like this – you just can’t compose everything the way you’d like! Thanks for your comment.

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