Anatomy of a photo #22: Bobcat stalking the shores of Tomales Bay

Bobcat walking towards me

This image was in a recent photo essay that I posted, and due to its popularity, I am going to write a little about what went into capturing this image.

First of all this photo was taken from my kayak. The majority of my more memorable bobcat images were taken during my kayak photography outings. Bobcats have learned to be suspicious or spooky about people who are walking around. Too often in the past they have been carrying guns or other forms of death. Take away those two legs however, and we present ourselves as a different creature. While wildcats will still become nervous around a person in a kayak and disappear, it doesn’t happen as quickly. There isn’t that same programmed response. I have heard similar things from bicyclists and horseback riders- they rarely get the same fear response from bobcats when mounted as when afoot. A second plus for the kayak is that they are cats, and cats are curious. Bobcats will often pause, wondering what the heck that thing floating out there is.

For this particular bobcat, it had felt like a bobcat sort of day, so I had actually gone out kayaking with the expectation of possibly seeing one on the shores of the bay. I saw this one while I was crossing, and still fairly far out from shore. I watched it as it stalked down the beach and rocky shore. On the hopes that it would continue its way down the shore I paddled ahead and out of sight, resting the nose of my kayak on the rocks at the very edge of the water and settled in to wait (staying in my kayak). By resting my kayak on the shore I hoped I would not have to do large paddling movements that might spook the cat. I was however worried that it would place me too much in its path, possibly stressing it out unduly from its normal behavior.

As I sat there debating with my self, I remained very still (although I had taken a couple of test shots to make sure of my cameras exposure). I had my camera at the ready, inches from my eye so that I could begin shooting with very little movement once the kitty came into view. I knew that it would notice me at some point, but I wanted to minimize the chances, and delay the inevitable. I had just decided that I might be too closely in the cat’s path and was about to push out into the water, when it came into view and it was too late. I had to stay put.

I had many horizontal (landscape orientation) photographs of bobcats already, so the first thing I did was to rotate my camera so that I was taking images in a vertical (portrait) orientation. It also seemed like a nice composition, complementing the perspective of the bobcat stalking towards me down the shore.

It was deep shadow where we were, so I did not have to worry about losing detail in highlight or shadow. It would be nice even lighting. Flashes were out of the question, as they can really disturb most wild mammals (birds not quite as much). I had a long lens on the camera (420 mm) so I had made all my camera adjustments to give me a fast shutter speed- the highest ISO I could use without having lots of noise, and a very wide aperture of f5.7 This also resulted in giving me a very shallow depth of field (which I rather enjoy for these nature portraits).

I took many images of the bobcat, as I often do when photographing wildlife. It’s easy to lose many images to blurriness (especially when shooting hand held) and also because the scene is usually dynamic and changing each instant.

This post and it’s story is getting rather long, so I will continue it tomorrow, but with another picture of the same bobcat, but one that I haven’t shared before.


About Galen Leeds Photography

Nature and wildlife photographer, exploring the world on his feet and from his kayak. Among other genres, he is one of the leading kayak photographers in Northern California. To learn more about him, visit him on his website-
This entry was posted in Anatomy of a photo, bobcats, kayak photography, nature photography, photography, wildlife photography and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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