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Posing Bandit



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Another of our little friend playing in a large walnut tree near the house.

Another of our little friend playing in a large walnut tree near the house.
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Behind The Lens

Location

This image was taken at home right off of my deck. We live on what's known as Sand Mountain in the Blue Ridge Mountains area of southwestern Virginia, in a small town named Wytheville. We have a number of raccoons that like to play on the deck, and chill out in our deck chairs. Off of our deck we have two very large Walnut trees, and one with a large opening in the trunk. This little bandit had been playing on the deck with a sibling, and then ran into the opening in the tree. When these guys are out there messing around, I will usually grabbed my camera,...and wait.

Time

Usually the raccoons are out near dusk. The time this image was shot was mid fall, so they were out earlier than normal to raid cat food bowls before my wife usually gathered them. This shot was taken October 29th, 2016 at 17:51.

Lighting

Being nearly November, the light was fading quickly. I used a small diffuse flashlight to highlight my little muse and keep his/her attention, as well as to create highlights in the eyes (versus a whole eye glow I suspected would happen with a flash). I bumped up my ISO to 400. As these guys usually don't sit still, a higher ISO with the small flashlight allowed a quicker shutter speed to eliminate possible blur.

Equipment

This hand held shot was taken with a Nikon D750, and a Nikkor 24-120mm VR ED. I held a small diffuse flashlight with my left hand on top part of camera.

Inspiration

We have lived up on Sand Mountain, at the time the shot was taken, some 15 years. During that time we have had several raccoons that have raised their litters under our back deck. They know our routine better than we do, so know when to get the cat food. In fact, a couple of them literally stand at the doors on the deck a watch us in the evening, leaving muddy little 'handprints' all over the windows. When bored with that, they will sit in the deck chairs and play. I can be outside whistling for the cats to come in, and our raccoon friends will meander over to me and smell my feet. They will hang on the back deck with me when I am at the grill, and sometimes I will get a cold nose on the back of the leg. They are our little friends, and are a part of our lives. We love having them around. This 'relationship' makes it easier to capture their wild life moments, because they are cautiously relaxed around us.

Editing

With this particular shot, I coverted to B/W and cleaned up sharpness and noise with Lightroom.

In my camera bag

When I go out for local landscapes I usually carry my D750 with a Tamron 70-200mm F/2.8 Di VC USD G2 attached, and my D7100 Nikkor with 18-105mm 3.5-5.6 ED. If a long hike is involved I will usually carry the D750 with a Nikkor 24-120mm 4 G ED. Usually have with a variable density filter and a circular polarizing lens, as well as my Sunpak Travel Light Pro tripod and lens wipes. For portraits and weddings I have both cameras, the Tamron 70-200mm, Nikkor primes 35 mm and 50 mm, and sometimes the 18-105mm depending on the location; and extra batteries/SD cards. When at home capturing the cats and local wildlife, my cameras/lenses sit at the ready on the coffee table, as they were for this image.

Feedback

For this particular image, there was no planning other than an anticipatory intuition and luck. The raccoons that live around the house know us, and that we are not a threat. We are part of their environment, and this has been cultivated over the years. This affords me the opportunity to get relatively close. So to answer the question, I would say become part of the environment, stay patient, watch behavior, make sure your settings are ready before you are, and rapid fire!

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