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on Apr 14, 2011 in Wildlife Photography

Shhhhhh, be vewy, vewy quiet

I stepped out the front door to see a shooting star streak by, I took that as a good omen. It was 04:30 when I pulled out of the drive and headed down the road. The wind was blowing pretty hard, which in the winter means a storm is coming but looking up, all I saw were stars. I headed north to a gorgeous sunrise over the Sierra crest. I made a turn west on Hwy 50 and headed over the mtns. I no sooner got west of Lake Tahoe and the rain started, and it poured! I was driving 396 miles and rain would definitely put a damper on my day.

The Riparian Brush Rabbit is a listed species I first photographed 20yrs ago when the world population was best guessed at a couple dozen. Way back then, I spent five days to get a couple clicks of one individual. It was a lot of time for the shot, but it turned out to be “the” shot for the species for a long time. Since then the same biologists I worked with back then have been working amazingly hard to help recover the species. I arrived on site just after noon today and was instantly in the researchers’ vehicle looking for rabbits. You see the winter has been a wet one here in CA and the rivers levels has raised to the point where the RBR habitat has flooded out in many regions and they’ve had to go by canoe and rescue rabbits that are up in the tops of trees trying to escape the flood. Last week 125 rabbits were rescued with 34 being found drowned. Yeah, the population has increased with the captive breeding program the biologists started a decade ago.

We cruised down the levy and much to my delight I saw over 30 RBR this afternoon! I’m not here to take just portraits of the RBR but since I had the opportunity this afternoon, I took advantage of it. The rain had stopped and when the sun came out the bunnies came out to warm up. They are brush rabbits so photographing them in the brush is an important part of the photograph. At the same time, getting a clean shot of the eye is a must and after that, it’s to taste to tell the story. You become an expert real quick of finding their runways, tunnels through the brush that you can shoot down. Then it’s a fine dance up, down, left, right to get the shot tuned, including needed elements and excluding the rest. Handholding is a must to have that kind of flexibility in framing. After that, it’s getting the right gesture in the rabbit, which includes eyes, jaw and ears. I like this one because the wabbit has attitude that I see as, “I’m not going to smile so take your damn shot and leave me alone.” We spent about 10min with it before we continued down the road on task. This is another long term project I’m very honored to be a part of, starting back in the days of film. Well, it’s time to hit the sack. I’ll be up again early tomorrow. Shhhhhh, be vewy, vewy quiet, we’re hunting wabbits.

Photo captured by D3x, 200-400VR2 w/TC-17e on Lexar UDMA digital film