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Native Californian, biologist, wildlife conservation consultant, retired Smithsonian scientist, father of two daughters, grandfather of 4 small primates. INTJ. Believes nature is infinitely more interesting than shopping malls. Born 100 years too late.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Familiarity cures camera shyness

What is it and what does it mean? It's a closeup of the ear of a gray fox, and it means the fox isn't afraid of the camera. But it wasn't always that way.

I can't prove it, but I am pretty sure that most of my several hundred gray fox pictures are of the same animal. My first encounters with it were fruitless. The animal took the bait, but evaded the camera's shutter.

Then I discovered that the little red light on the passive infra-red sensor was scaring the animal away. I deactivated the light and started to get pictures. For a while the fox was leary, and the pictures were nothing to write home about.

In a few weeks it became bold enough to scent mark shamelessly in front of the camera (see "A flawed photo essay..." Jan 2005). But many pictures were of the fox with closed eyes. It seemed to have an uncanny ability to anticipate the flash.

Now, many months later, it is actually curious about "the thing that flashes". This week was the first time I photographed the fox sticking its face in the camera and sniffing it. On the night of Dec. 20, 6 out of 59 photos of the fox were point blank face flashes. Of course Br'er fox kept his eyes shut.

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