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on Apr 11, 2011 in Wildlife Photography

SJKF – A New Chapter Begins

My images of the San Joaquin Kit Fox have been on the pages of Nat’l G to the cover of Smithsonian, children posters, books and just yesterday on the CBS Sunday Morning show and that’s still not enough! They are still endangered, to few of the public know their story. Now coming back skunked from a shoot with the SJKF, I’ve done that many times. It’s simply part of the game since wildlife. Just because you’ve put the dates on the calendar and you show up doesn’t mean they will. This is especially true when you’re working with an endangered species and there are 200-400 to possibly work with in the area. Amazingly, I saw 16 individuals and had glass on 15 this trip so that’s one damn, fine start to the year!

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I’m starting a new phase/project with the SJKF which will take the next year to knock out and I can’t be anymore excited with the start. 10-12 hours days paid off with big dividends. What you see here is an adult coming up from its den mid morning to see the world and take a nap in the sun. It’s pup season so the den gets really crowded so adults come up to get some space. I saw and photographed six pups at two different den sites, all around eight weeks old. Pups are just so much fun to watch because of all their energy. That’s probably why this adult looks not awake yet. You might be wondering about the background. That’s broken sidewalk, cement which the kit fox has dug underneath and made their den. It’s a very active street and yet this pair has been in this location for years have raised many families from what seems to be a very dangerous location for a fox to live.

Probably the most exciting part of all of this is bringing new gear, techniques and ideas to what is an old subject (I’ve been photographing the SJKF for 24yrs). The SJKF is basically a nocturnal critter though you could easily slip them into the diurnal category. Lighting at night is just not an option for every reason, everything from it being an endangered species to they don’t hold still and in one place. Working with what light is available is a must so the magic of the D3s is really proving itself. I’m not a “raise the ISO” kind of guy but in this case, it is the only option. So shooting at ISO 9000, biology is being photographed not captured before. What was really cool for us and the researchers was shooting video at night at ISO 9000. It’s simply amazing! I shot video with the D3s, D7000 and S9100 with all three doing a perfect job for what they were applied to do.

The project is really, really going to push me which excites and scares me to death. Being on scene basically every other week for the next year will push my calendar and productivity to the max. That scares me. Spending that much time with one of my favorite critters excites me to no end! And getting the shots that will hopefully make a difference is a huge responsibility that evokes the same emotions. I think the last 30yrs has prepared me for the challenge, only time will tell.

Photo captured by D3x, 600VR w/TC-17e (handheld) on Lexar UDMA digital film