Dagboek van een natuurfotograaf: deel 1

Artikelnummer: Blog 1
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It’s a chilly morning in late August and still dark outside, when I open the trunk of the car. The thought alone of having to walk twice towards the stream to bring all my gear there, in my thick neoprene waders, makes me sweat. Some strenuous 20 minutes later, the well-camouflaged floating hide has been assembled, camera and long lens mounted, and triple checked for secure connection. I slowly push the hide into the stream and follow the contraption into the murky waters.  


I know exactly where I will be heading: the beavers recently felled a large willow tree in a bend around the corner. A food supply that will last them at least a week and I had watched them at that exact spot the previous two mornings. I carefully proceed along the shore of the stream. I don’t want to startle any beavers already present at the crime scene by my sudden movements. But I also have to take great care since the bottom of the stream is uneven with many deep potholes. Once water enters the wading suit from above, I’m done. The smell of methane gas coming from rotting leaves in the mud is horrible, but I’m focussed on moving slowly towards my target.


When I round the corner, I’m relieved there are no beavers present at the scene, which means there are no beavers to startle. I take position at a spot where I can rest on my knees and start the wait. The relief of no beavers quickly changes into worry that they may not show up at all. The perks of the human mind! Through the side window, I have a clear view of the straight stretch of stream that leads towards the bend. After half an hour of struggling about dozing off, finally I see the tell-tale bow wave of a swimming beaver in the water. I brace myself on my knees in order to not make any movement at all. I want the beaver to stay relaxed so that it heads for breakfast without any hesitation.


Some 10 meters before arrival, the beaver dives under. They often do that for the final approach, but it may also mean it sensed trouble. My other worry is that the beaver approaches me under water and ends up tasting the artery in my leg. Two news items about beavers attacking both a person and a dog had made me postpone my floating hide plans for a year after all!


I stare towards the fallen willow tree and to my relief see air bubbles close to the shore. Within seconds, the beaver surfaces, heads straight for the tree and starts munching like there is no tomorrow. I carefully reposition the hide, making sure not to cause any big ripples in the water. I take a single image in silent mode on my Canon camera. When the beaver shows no sign of stress to the camera sounds, I take a deep breath and take photo after photo. After some seemingly endless minutes, the beaver has had enough and swims away towards the lodge. Sleepy time. A perfect opportunity for some low angle headshots. The beaver seems to barely react to the hide and camera clicks. But later on when looking at my photos on the computer screen, I can see its beady eye was on me the whole time.


I wait for another half hour; you never know if any of the other 8 or 9 beavers in this family fancy a late snack. They do not, and I make my way back to my place of entry. Back on dry land, I sit down for a while and try to relive what happened that morning. When busy taking photos, the actual experience tends to go past you and it is only afterwards that you start thinking about the wonderful thing that you, and just you, were allowed to witness. Being in the water, at eye level with a beautiful animal that accepted me in its life, albeit for only short while. That’s what makes all the trouble of wildlife photography from a (floating) hide so worthwhile and addictive.


Thanks for sharing Marijn Heuts, nature & wildlife photographer from The Netherlands

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