It's SCARY Out There!
Being out in nature can be a very relaxing, enjoyable and enlightening experience. But sometimes it can get a little scary. Sometimes it's similar to a haunted house during Halloween. You're sneaking through a haunted house, in the dark. You don't know where you're going or what's around the corner. It can go from quiet to loud in an instant. You don't know what's going to jump out and scare the crap out of you.
Being out in nature can be very similar sometimes, especially if you're all alone. As a photographer, I want to be out in the woods and at my ideal location early in the morning, often before sunrise. That way I can actually catch the sunrise and/or take advantage of some of the best lighting of the day. It's also when wildlife is most active. So I'm usually getting out in the woods while it's still pretty dark. It's quiet. There's nobody around. You can't see a whole lot, so you can't be sure what's nearby.
In Florida, it's hard to find really exciting wildlife that people don't see every day. I try to find young animals. Everyone loves the babies. We of course have lots of cool birds. I've shot my share of those. Deer are abundant. Tons of alligators. But bears are what I've really been trying to find. Unfortunately most of our bears are seen in neighborhoods. I want to find a bear in the woods, not in someone's trash can. So I'm out there looking for them. I'm not having a lot of luck so far. Does a bear shit in the woods? I don't know, I haven't had the chance to ask one yet. But one time I was in the Seminole State Forest early in the morning. I'm walking real slow and quiet. Looking for a bear alone can be a bit nerve racking. They are big. They can hurt me if they want. And I'm all alone. So when it's quiet and your sneaking around, it's somewhat dark and a squirrel jumps from a tree onto a palm frond a few feet away from you, it can make you jump out of your shoes. Or a bird takes off or screams out of nowhere. But a sudden jump from a bear is a whole new level of "oh shit!" This is what happened. I was so quiet, I got real close to a bear before he knew I was coming and before I knew he was there. Probably 20 feet from me he just took off through the palm fronds scaring the crap out of me. Bears can actually walk through the woods pretty quietly, but they run LOUD! Obviously I scared him as well. I never got close to getting a picture that time.
Another time Juju and I were in Highlands Hammock State Park. We were out early in the morning and went to the swamp area where they have a walking trail loop. A big part of this loop is on boardwalks that zig zag through the wetlands. A good part of this boardwalk is narrow with only one hand rail. Gators are just feet from you. Also when you're the first one out there, it's very likely you're gonna walk through a nasty spider web. So I'm leading the way. It's barely light out. A little foggy. Very quiet except for the boards creaking under our feet. I have my camera in one hand and a big stick in the other to knock down spider webs. I'm concentrating on the spider webs so much that I don't notice this big yellow snake right next to me on the hand rail! That'll jump start your heart. Once I get my heart rate back down, of course, I have to take pictures.
I've even been scared by deer laying real close to me in the shrubs. I have no idea they are there and take a picture of some woodpeckers. The sound of my camera shutter makes the deer jump up and scare the crap out of me.
I've also unknowingly rode my bike just feet past a gator on the side of the road. You can see in this pic, where my tire track is right before he crossed the road. I turned around to take the picture.
Wildlife can be unpredictable and safety can be a concern. Especially once I get out West and to Alaska where they are much bigger. But even things as small as a squirrel can scare you when you're all alone and not ready for it. It's kinda like a year-long haunted house. Happy Halloween!
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