Beaver Photography



Photograph/Gabriel Fuchs

Some time ago I was in Sweden, a country full of nature and Swedes. The nature has a lot of offer in terms of animal life (apart from the Swedes that is). Among other animals, there are bears, wolves, deer, mink, and lots of mosquitoes. There are also beavers to be found and there are organised beaver safaris. A beaver safari does not mean that one is guided to a licentious Swedish night club and then hopes to get lucky. Oh no, a beaver safari in Sweden means that one goes to somewhere in the middle of nature and then waits.
I went on such a beaver safari with my photographer friend Anita. All in all, we were eight photographers and me heading into the deep nature hoping to see beavers. What one does is placing oneself close to some lake where beavers are supposedly living. Then one waits while standing as still as possible so as not to scare away the beavers.
Standing still in nature means that animals that are usually reserved may become visible as they may not notice some immobilised photographer on beaver safari. And this can be quite an experience. Snakes all of a sudden become an issue. Swedish snakes have a tendency to avoid big moving animals, including humans. A non-moving human is less of an issue, until this human sees the snake by its feet and then gets scared and moves, whereby the snake may bite. Now that is an issue.
Bears are also a risk factor. Cute as they may be, they have attacked and killed humans. A bear may stray close if there is no movement from the photographer and if it does, one shall have to makes oneself big in order to scare it away. How one does that is not really explained by those who recommend this bear-scaring tactic. How does a person go from, e.g., 170 centimetres to 250 in an instant? Or in two instants? Or in a life time?
Then there are the mosquitoes. They are everywhere and more than pleased to fester on an immobilised photographer hoping to see a beaver.
In the middle of this, one stands waiting for that beaver to show its face. All this while carrying a camera with a rather heavy zoom lens. While waiting, one keeps taking photos of the nature, some flowers, and yet more nature. After all, the camera has to be utilised. And all this while nervously looking around for bears and snakes while pretending that there are no mosquitoes around. In the midst of this, one also hopes that it will not start to rain. Yup, the things one goes through to see a beaver.
So why does anyone go on beaver safari? I went because my photographer friend Anita brought me along. Others go because they say that a good photo is worth the risk of having to fight Mother Nature in all its forms. And yeah, once that little rodent shows its face it is kind of exciting. Eight cameras all going off at the same time on burst mode definitely made that little fellow come alive, quickly diving into the water because all the camera noise scared it away. This sudden noise also set other parts of the forest in motion, as it turned out that some deer had come close to the safari group without noticing them. When they did, they ran away between the trees with all eight photographers frantically turning towards them trying to get some good photos of them now that the beaver was gone.
In all this commotion, some finally start swearing about the mosquitoes. Once the deer are gone, it is back to the beaver, hoping it will show its face again.
And so it goes on. In the midst of looking out for snakes, I think about the beaver and how nice it would be if Anita got a few good photos of it. That would make her happy and a happy Anita is worth so much more than an absent beaver.
As it so happened, the beaver did show its hairy face again, this time a bit further away. The photographers managed to get some shots without scaring it away, whereby there was new noise in the bushes around us as our temporarily silence while waiting for some beaver had made the deer once again stray close to us.
Yup, seeing a beaver can be quite exciting.
This article originally appeared in the February 2011 issue of Better Photography.
Gabriel Fuchs is a Swiss-based IT and management consultant, as well as a keen hobby photographer. Gabriel is also a proficient writer of more or less serious industry articles, both on IT and photography.
Tags: Nature, February 2011, Gabriel Fuchs, patience, beavers, deer, snakes, mosquitoes