“Why are you holding back?” Dave asks, gesturing for me to follow after him.
“I’m afraid the bear will eat me!” I hiss and cower behind the car.
“Don’t be silly!” he scoffs, then hurries to join the 800 other gawking tourists jam-packed by the side of the road.
Three minutes earlier, while driving leisurely through Yellowstone National Park, we’d come upon a dozen or so cars parked beside the road. Eager tourists pointed and snapped photos of a mama black bear and her three rambunctious cubs. While I was thrilled to see this sight – not just one bear, but four! – I had heard one too many stories about protective mother bears ripping off people’s heads to heedlessly rush up to the bears. So it was that Dave hurried to the side of the road for a look while I hung back with visions of this in my mind:
After observing the lack of bloody death for a few minutes, I realize that the mama bear and her cubs are far more interested in eating grass and grubs than me, so I venture closer and manage to snap a picture or two.
My experience of wildlife photography went something like this:
OMG there’s a bunch of bears! Grab the camera! Dash across the road, trying not to faceplant as you keep larger and more scrumptious looking tourists between yourself and the bears. Fumble with the camera and tripod. Realize you have the wrong lens. Run back to the car and and dive into the piles of travel detritus. Paw through said detritus like a starving wildebeest after a morsel of food until you grab the right lens. Skitter back to setup. Attempt to screw new lens on while keeping track of various lens caps. Realize tripod is on uneven ground. Nervously eye wild creatures. Adjust tripod legs. Try to remember rudiments of basic photography. Fail, and put the dang setting on sports.
Try to use autofocus; hear whir of motor for so long that you flip it off autofocus and focus manually. Take a picture. Realize that you need the remote trigger, which is back in the car. Stampede back to the car again to find it. Dig through the junk everywhere and locate it after lengthy and passionate cursing.
Breathing hard, make it back to your camera again and after some fiddling, begin snapping pictures. As mama bear drifts closer to the roadside, try not to imagine her claws sinking into your skull.
At about this time the park ranger usually shows up and orders tourists back at least 100 yards, first using his nice voice and then when ignored, bellowing into his loudspeaker like a roid raging weightlifter to get back and while you’re at it, PARK OFF THE ROAD, DAMMIT.
Later, in the safety of your hotel room, review your pictures. Complain to Dave:
“They’re all so crappy compared to the professionals.”
Listen to Dave try to console you, then go back to berating yourself for general idiocy and talentlessness.
Remember the first suggestion from the photography books you consulted prior to the trip. Images should be set on high quality RAW. Check settings and find that it’s on low quality. Howl in agony.
Then come home and write a blog post. Take comfort that at least you succeed in that!