In December of 2002 I borrowed a Canon D60, (not 60D) a 6.3 MP camera, and went to Triple D Game Farm to photograph for an article for PC Photo on the digital workflow. This was pre Adobe Camera Raw, pre Lightroom. The only software available was the Canon software at the time. (Pre Digital Photo Professional) It was painfully slow and clunky. You would move a slider, wait about 20 seconds for the change to take place and if you did not like it you then adjusted again and waited another twenty seconds to see the difference. (Fortunately their, and all the other software have made HUGE improvements). I remember sitting on the floor of the cabin in Montana and trying to process an image. It took forever to get it to look good, and most of that time was just waiting, there were no real time adjustments. If you made the image too red, you had to go back to the starting point, which took about 20-30 seconds and then readjust, wait another 20- 30 seconds and see what that looked like and repeat until you were happy. It was agonizing!
Anyway, I wrote my article how the camera was good but the whole digital workflow was a pain in the ass. And if you wanted to take pictures in any volume then you would need days just to process your images. I suggested to keep shooting film and scan your slides until the software and the workflow would make it efficient enough to begin to shoot with a digital camera. It was the only column in my 10 years of writing for the magazine that did not get published!
When I got home I burned those images to a CD and forgot about them. In 2003 Adobe came out with Adobe Camera Raw and it was much more efficient at processing. I did look at those images at the time, and there were one or two that I processed in ACR and used. But for the most part the images remained locked on the CDs. They never did get entered into my Lightroom library.
I started using Lightroom even before it was called Lightroom. I was a beta tester for Adobe back when the software was code named “Shadowland.” My first “real” digital camera was a Canon 1Ds, an 11MP camera. From the start, all those images were added to my Lightroom catalog, which now stands at over 399,000 images.
Recently I just discovered the old images stored on the CDs and thought I better put them in my computer before there are no CD readers available! I have Apple computers and they do not come with CD/DVD drives anymore. Fortunately, I have a stand-alone Blu-ray DVD burner, so I pulled it out and copied the old images on to my computer, adding them to Lightroom. I discovered some nice images in the bunch. Of course I wish they had been made with a more modern sensor, giving me larger files and greater dynamic range, but there is nothing I can do about that.
Here are a few I like:
1/180 sec; f/5.6; ISO 200; 400mm
1/90 sec; f/4.5; ISO 200; 220mm
1/200 sec; f/5.6; ISO 200; 320mm
1/125 sec; f/5.6; ISO 200; 400mm
1/90 sec; f/6.7; ISO 200; 350mm
And my favorite of the shoot
1/90 sec; f/6.7; ISO 200; 260mm
There is a good story behind this image. I was photographing the mountain lion and he was being a bit aloof, just wandering around the enclosure, not paying much attention to me and it was difficult to get an image with any kind of interaction with the animal. I mentioned this to the trainer, Rick that was with me. I had been to the game farm many times in the past and had worked with Rick often. This behavior continued for a few moments and then all of a sudden the mountain lion locked in on me. He was about 20 yards away, but started to move my direction, definitely in a stalking mode. I was intent on watching through my 100-400 mm lens, all my attention on the animal. I was mounted to a tripod at the time. As the lion got closer it got more intense, and it hid itself in some brush about 15 feet away staring at me with cold eyes. I was a bit nervous, because it was such a change in behavior, and the animal seemed overly focused on me. I could tell it was stalking, and I was thinking in the back of my mind that I was going to get pounced on by the lion. As it settled into the brush, I couldn’t get a clear shot because the branches were obscuring his face. Not thinking about my safety, I removed the camera from the tripod and moved a few feet to my left to get a clearer view. After one or two frames the cat rushed from the bushes, ran right passed me and leapt to the lure that Rick was holding behind me. The sudden burst of movement really startled me. Rick burst out laughing, it turns out he had been dangling the lure just over my head the whole time to get the animal looking my direction. If I enlarge this image big enough I can see the shape of Rick standing right behind me in the eye of the mountain lion. I was so intent on taking pictures I had no idea!
In 1989 I led the first workshop to a game farm in the United States! I have been leading trips to Triple D for 27 years and it has always been a wonderful experience!
Photographing at a game farm gives you not only the opportunity to get great photographs that would take years of work and cause undo hardship on wild animals, but it also gives you the chance to refine your wildlife photography skills by practicing various techniques that you can carry over into the field. The animals are captive, but they are still wild and behave in the same manner as a wild animal. The advantage is we get to have them posing in the areas we want and the poses are usually repeatable!
I am leading a trip there this summer featuring baby animals. You can get more info here.