I know you like moose… I want to tell you my 12 notes of how this photo happened:
1. It was snowing in the Alaska Arctic in late Sept, 2012. We saw the moose from far away near a river. We were led by pro photographer and leader Hugh Rose and trekked for half a mile through the wet boreal forest, constantly guarding our face and cameras from the numerous protruding sharp tree branches. The ground was so soft I felt like walking on cotton. With snow falling, my face
felt like frozen… I love it.
2. Contrary to most people think, a bull (male) moose in mating season is EXTREMELY DANGEROUS, more so than if we run into a grizzly bear. Bear generally won't attack if we form a big group because bear would feel he/she is outnumbered. But moose is not as “smart” as bear and wouldn't count, he would just charge at people at his will. Weight easily more than 1,000 pounds, with a height of 7 feet at the shoulder (not even counting head and neck), if he charges, its like a freight train running towards you. More people got injured by moose than bear in Alaska each year, especially during their mating season because genetically the bull moose is wired to attack anything they see except female moose.
3. This bull moose was in heat, meaning he was looking for female desperately to mate, and was ready to fight with any other males on his way.
4. He was so irritated (because no females were around, well, who wouldn't? ) that he drilled his head into a dead tree and got some tree branches onto his antlers. It's the “bling bling” in moose's world to impress the ladies.
5. At first we were very far away. But he approached us slowly.
6. We didn't dare to move a bit. Heck, we didn't dare to breathe heavily. There's nowhere to hide.
7. I remember a famous photographer once said, “If a wild animal sleeps in front of you, it's the biggest compliment a nature photographer can ever receive. Because that means the wild animal accepts your presence.”
8. Well, this moose walked close to us. Looked at us for a few minutes. Then he sat down behind some branches, and took a nap in front of us. I finally understood what that famous photographer meant.
9. We just stood there in awe. No one spoke a word. Every one of us taking the time to soak in every moment we spend with this gigantic powerful wild animal in such close distance. It's like seeing a person you dream to meet, but you know he/she may leave your world at any moment. We know not many people in this world could experience something like this. And we might not have another opportunity ever again.
10. After who knows how long, the moose finally wake up, and gave us this look when he walked by. He was so close to us. He weighted at least 1,500 pounds. As he walked by, the cracking sound of branches were so loud and clear, penetrating through the whole quiet boreal forest.
11. We all held our breaths the whole time he walked by.
12. This is a full frame photo, no crop. I was trying my best to fit his head into the viewfinder because he was too close and I only had one lens, and more importantly, I only had one chance, in just one split second when he turned his head. But due to my lack of experience about moose, I didn't know he has such long beard. So I cropped it. I should have used a vertical composition! Kicking myself now. Well if I used vertical I probably couldn't include both of his antlers…
An experience I would remember for the rest of my life.
Thank you for reading the whole story. I hope you feel like I have taken you along in my adventure.
With leader Hugh Rose in an Arctic Tour.