They Look Their Best When It’s Really Cold
Just as birds look their best in spring, mammals tend to look their best in the heart of winter. Fur serves many purposes and for most mammals it’s warmth in winter. Fur has always fascinated me because it varies so from critter to critter, habitat to habitat. Some like the Arctic Fox and “The Bastard” (White-tailed Hare) completely change color as well as fur density from winter to summer. Some like the Coyote and Bighorn just grow denser fur between seasons. And some like little rodents don’t do much of anything because they sleep through winter. Whatever the mammal though, when they have their best coat on they look their best for photography and for most of North America, that’s winter time.
When it comes to photographing these critters as you can see in the photos, I love the overcast, stormy kind of light. Why? There are many reasons the first being, their thick, brown coats look the warmest against the bluish nature of the light. If I were for example, to change the white balance so the coyote were to have the bluish color cast of the light, it would come across as a cold and evil critter. But using a warmer WB the coyote now comes across as a warm and cuddly critter. If I wanted the bighorn to appear like it was struggling through winter, the bluish color cast would work to convey this. But I want the bighorn to look like it’s going through its day just like it were any other day so the warmer WB. And all of this is based on that thick, winter coat and the world in which it is set. Both of these images were shot with the 600mm / TC-17e so that I could isolate the critter in its world so the snow is just an element and not an avalanche. So winter coat, light, WB and lens all had to come together to make the photo.