The Winter Shoot
Last January (2005) I joined three friends for a four-day Wildlife Model shoot at Animals of Montana. It was spectacular, and as soon as the shoot was completed I booked 2006 for this very, very special Photo Tour. Here's the details ....
North American predators are extremely difficult subjects to film in the wild. Almost all published photographs of puma or mountain lion, bobcat, lynx, and gray wolf are of captive or wildlife models. Yet the images one can produce at a wildlife model shoot are dynamic and compelling and fun.
We'll be photographing the mammals of 'Animals of Montana' (For general background information, see my scouting report or see my trip report on last winter's shoot to get a great idea of what's involved) which offers an incredible variety of subjects. Mary and I have photographed at several different facilities over the years and, of them all, Animals of Montana has proven to be the best. On our first shoot in September of 2005 we were simply amazed at how the owner of Animals of Montana, Troy Hyde, worked his adult Grizzly Bear. We'd never seen anything like it, and we obtained the best images of Grizzlies we'd ever filmed.
We'll be shooting a variety of predators from the Northern Hemisphere, and many of these will be native North American species. We'll also have the opportunity to film two spectacular exotics as well, the Siberian Tiger and the Snow Leopard. Although these species are Asian, they are found in habitats quite similar to that of the area of Montana where we will be shooting. I've been in snow leopard country and I know that the lichen-covered rocks of Snow Leopard country are the same everywhere. Tigers are found in mixed forests of evergreens and deciduous trees, or in open meadows, the same habitats we'll be using.
The North American predators will of course offer no such issues, and we'll have the opportunity to film several species in a variety of ways -- from portrait to animal in habitat. Unlike any other facility I've filmed at, the Pumas of Animals of Montana are not declawed, so it is possible to get great shots with claws visible, or as the puma stretches and scratches a log, or climbs a tree.
It is incredible how well a snow leopard can blend into the landscape. The cat's color is so cryptic they're easy to miss -- and that's when you know where to look. I can't imagine the difficulty of seeing one in the wild, 'though I'd like to try!
Northern Montana is the home for almost of the subjects we'll be shooting. Our autumn shoot hopefully will coincide with having some snow cover so that our animals will be framed against an appropriate winter landscape. With rather unsteady weather the last several years, we can't guarantee that, but even without snow the subjects would look great. So, snow or no snow, imagine all of these subjects in the grand landscape of Montana! If you can imagine that, you'll have some conception of the types of photographs possible on this unique wildlife model shoot.
We'll be shooting for three days, with a fourth day reserved as a weather day. In the event that we do not need the weather day you may elect to photograph more animals on this fourth day at an additional charge.
You will be shooting a smorgasbord of North American and Northern Hemisphere predators, from one of the largest species, like the Siberian tiger, grizzly bear, black bear, puma (cougar-mountain lion), and gray wolf, to some of the smaller major predators, which may include bobcat, lynx, red and gray fox, skunk, badger, coyote and raccoon. Exactly what we shoot will depend upon several factors, which can include availability of a subject or its temperment on a given day. More importantly, however, is the fact that we do not have to be on a schedule where we have a given amount of time to shoot a subject. Troy doesn't work that way. Instead, we'll be able to photograph a subject for as long as we wish, or until the animal grows bored, tired, or hot, and it's obvious that the shoot is no longer productive.
That said, Mary and I will also be keeping a sharp eye on 'pacing' ourselves so that we can indeed photograph many different species and we'll orchestrate the group, survey the group, and decide for the group to best facilitate your photographic needs.
A mandatory orientation meeting will be held
on the first evening of our photo shoot. Mary and I will also
do an introductory power point presentation on computer where
we'll review the subjects and, far more importantly, the techniques
we'd suggest you use for a successful shoot. We'll discus metering,
composition, AF concerns, and group dynamics and protocol, so
you'll have a really clear idea of what the conditions are like
and what you'll be shooting and where.
We'll be photographing the next three
days, weather permitting, with our shooting times determined the
evening before by Animals of Montana. Depending upon the location
and the subject, the starting time for shooting will usually be
shortly after sunrise or when 'winter light' reaches the shooting
location that we'll be using. Remember, day light is reduced in
winter, and in the north, so our days are not agonizingly long.
Most or all AM shoots won't begin before 8AM and will probably
conclude by 4PM. Depending upon the lighting conditions and temperature,
we probably will shoot throughout the day, taking a brief break
for lunch. A weather day is built in to the program, and if we
have three straight days of shooting we'll have an optional fourth
day of shooting. Our last shooting session each day will conclude
by 4PM or so, again depending upon the subject, the lighting we
desire, and the location of the shoot.
If you sell photographs you probably know that
American predators are best sellers.
If you photograph for your own pleasure or for camera club competition or for prints, this shoot will provide you with an extremely wide range of subject matter.
If you normally photograph solo and haven't considered filming with a group, I don't think you'll find it compromising. On my personal shoots I often find I pick one spot and spend a great deal of time at that location, using a zoom for compositional changes. On group shoots, we encourage people to do likewise, but then to change positions with other photographers to get a different viewpoint and perspective.
Perhaps most importantly, shooting in our group will be far less expensive than booking a private shoot, and we'll be shooting more animals. Normally, one of the feature creatures - puma, grizzly, tiger, snow leopard - require a $500 fee, with another animal an additional $200. You'll be saving considerably by shooting with our group and we'll be shooting virtually everything that's workable, time and weather permitting, and we'll be shooting at least three animals a day.
You'll also have the very real benefit of shooting under our guidance, as we orchestrate the shoot selecting sites, making decisions, offering suggestions, all of the things that are required for a successful shoot. We'll be offering advice on composition, lens choice, exposures while we're in the field, insuring that you'll be getting great images. At our motel, we'll be discussing digital photography and, no doubt, Photoshop techniques that can be employed to make your images even better.
An added advantage of shooting Animals of Montana is the close working distances we'll be having. Most of the subjects can be photographed with a 70-200mm lens!
Transportation is not included. Because of the potential for snow, we'd recommend driving a 4-wheel drive vehicle. Several types are available for rent at the Bozeman airport. We also suggest that you car pool, and we'll provide a participants list beforehand. We suggest you make arrangements with another, or several, photographers to share the cost of a car rental and to facilitate parking at some of our locations. The Comfort Inn will provide airport pickup and drop offs, which will help in your rental and air travel plans.
Lodging is included, based upon double-occupancy. We'll be staying at the Comfort Inn in Bozeman. There will be a charge for a single supplement - the price of a room.
We'll be providing a Welcome Dinner on our first evening and a Farewell Dinner on the last day of your shoot. Lunches will be provided for the three days of the shoot. We'll also be providing a variety of snacks. Two dinners - on Day Two and Day Three -- are not included, but the group eats as a group at a local restaurant.
We'll devote one evening to a participant's portfolio show. Photographers should limit their images to no more than 40, which they'll show either on their computer or, via a CD or thumb drive, on our computer. We'll have a digital projector along so we won't be looking at a laptop! We will not have the equipment or capability to show slides.
The Photo Tour price is based upon Three days of shooting, with a fourth day included as a bad weather/rain day that we'll use if one of the three preceeding days in inclement. If the weather cooperates, the fourth day is a free day, but Troy will have subjects to photograph for an additional charge. Those subjects can include animals we've previously filmed or entirely new species. Rates per subject may vary and we'll provide a fee schedule to the registered participants.
Bozeman also has a spectacular museum, The Museum of the Rockies, with a great Native American, Western Settlement, and Dinosaur exhibit, and you might elect to visit the museum in lieu of shooting. Yellowstone National Park is approximately 2 hours (max), so if you'd like to work on park scenics, pronghorns, coyotes,or elk, all are generally available close to the northwest entrance to the park. It is possible to do a one-day trip to Yellowstone and drive to Lamar Valley where there's a fairly good chance you'll see wolves. Note I said 'see,' although lucky visitors may photograph wild wolves up close. Last year, on my scouting trip I did wonderful work with coyote.
If we do not need the rain day for the three days of shooting, we'll have our 'Farewell Dinner' on the evening of the third shooting day. In that way, if photographers elect to do something other than shoot bonus animals (at the extra charge) they'll have the freedom to do whatever they'd like without the worries of making it back to Bozeman for a group farewell dinner
If we have a weather day our time won't be wasted. We'll have along a digital projector and I'll demonstrate some RAW capture programs, ACR and Capture 1, and some interesting Photoshop techniques. We'll conduct this session as a seminar where we can cover multiple topics and demonstrate some very interesting ways to maximize the advantages of digital imagery.
The Photo Tour fee includes double-occupancy lodging at the Comfort Inn, lunches during the three shooting days with predators, two dinners, and the Wildlife Model fees for three days of shooting.