Candid camera – in the wilds
Plymouth photographer captures close-ups of animals using specialized equipment
The perfect nature photo is waiting to happen, but it might take days or months to capture it, says hobby photographer Al Muir.
The Plymouth resident, who has many cameras in wooded areas, said when an unbelievable image is captured it is worth the many treks in the woods to adjust the lens, study the wildlife and exchange camera cards.
In particular, he remembers one photo in the winter of 2011 that captured a doe nuzzling up to a buck which he says to this day is one of his favourites.
“I worked really hard for that picture,” he said. “I had a trail packed down in a spot and there was food there because that was the only way to get them to come that location. I would go in for a period over months and each time it snowed, it would cover the trail into the woods so I could only follow an outline. I would walk in with a 75-pound back pack on my back and if I fell off the trail, I would be in deep snow. It was a long process but it was worth it to me.”
It is hard to believe that out of the 500,000 photos he now collects each year from his trail cameras that one still holds top prize, but he said this is probably a photo not one would ever see otherwise.
His love for nature photography started 40 years and his own skills and technology have advanced over this time.
Muir said some people believe taking a trail photo is a matter of setting up a camera and walking away from it, but in fact a photographer needs to learn about nature, what angle to shoot from, feeding habits, mating rituals, and so on.
“If you know how an animals behaves, you know how it approaches an area and you can say, ‘OK, it will come at his angle.’ If you are being particular, a person can be as fussy as you want to be.”
Muir had his trail photos in the provincial hunting guides in the past, including the front cover of the 2017-2018 guide featuring a buck with a rare chocolate-coloured rack. He said he learned that deer antlers are coloured by the tree they rub on so he is a bit puzzled as to what this deer was rubbing against to acquire the colour.
He started taking photos for inventory purposes, but it has progressed into a nature study such as his focus this year on a young buck in different stages of growth.
With 40 years of knowledge in nature photography now stored on his computer and other backup devices, he said the anticipation of what is on the camera card still keeps him going back for more.
“That is one of the best things about it,” he said.
Out of some of the hundreds of thousands of photos Al Muir has taken with his trail cameras, he still believes the buck and doe picture is one of his best.