Spend enough time in the great outdoors and you are going to witness some amazing sights. Pictured here is a loon eating a minnow.
Spend enough time in the great outdoors and you are going to witness some amazing sights. Pictured here is a loon eating a minnow.
I’VE HAD some pretty crazy moments in the woods and on the lakes over the years, taking photos of everything from bear and angry fishers to fawns, fox pups, dive-bombing eagles and albino deer.

While the list of species is quite long, some of those outdoor experiences turned out to be real adventures because of the unexpected things that occurred.

For instance, I was in a forested area between Boulder Junction and Sayner one evening because a landowner said a nice albino buck was hanging around his property from time to time.

It’s one thing to hear that news and think of the possibility of seeing a monster albino buck, and quite another to actually witness such an encounter.

Two hours after my arrival I had four whitetail bucks arrive together, single file, coming down a trail and entering a small clearing. The first was a fork-horned buck and the second was a large-bodied albino — a sight almost as surreal as seeing a unicorn or some other mythical beast.

The albino had heavy, palmated antlers that were white against pink skin because the buck was still in summer velvet, a period when live skin covers the growing antlers until sometime in late August.

Its eyes were not pink but a deep, dark blue. It had long white guard hairs covering its frame that created a fuzzy white outline against the dark woods, but not enough hair in that summer coat to cover the pinkish skin beneath.

It was pretty much an unbelieveable sighting, one the scribbler will never forget. And that’s especially true because I used a camera to document those sights for all time.

The third buck was a small six-pointer and the fourth was a huge buck with a high, thick 10-point rack in full velvet. It was the buck every hunter dreams of seeing in the wild, sporting symmetrical, thick tines on a perfectly arranged frame.

The albino appeared to be the dominant animal in the group and the little fork-horn seemed like his long-lost buddy. They stayed close together no matter what.

The 10-pointer was the most skittish by far, staying in heavy cover and giving me only one or two opportunities for a photo of any kind.

It was being in the right place at the right time, for that experience might have taken several trips and many hours of patient waiting to get the right distance and lighting for decent photos.

It was one of my most memorable dry-land encounters with wildlife because most of the time these photos get taken from a boat, where it’s easier to sneak close to subjects that range from eagles and ospreys to red fox, raccoons, ducks, geese, swans, mink, otters and others.

My average photo outing, you see, centers around fishing. That’s the sport that draws me into spending hours and hours on the water, and that increases your odds of being at the right place at the right time.

As I’ve said before, don’t go fishing with the scribbler if you consider it a problem to abandon a hot fishing spot in order to chase after a bald eagle that just landed on a low perch across the lake or bay. When photo opportunities knock, you’ve got to answer.

One of my craziest water adventures occurred a few years back in mid-May, when we were fishing the Three Lakes Chain for walleyes on a dreary day with heavy overcast skies and intermittent rain.

We had pulled anchors to leave a fishing spot in shallow weeds when son Steve noticed a rod was leaving the front of the boat because a loon had grabbed the large minnow that was dangling in the water, attached to a slip bobber rig.

Of course the big worry was that somehow we were going to hook this unsuspecting bird and be part of some noisy, wild show while trying to cut the line. Thankfully, it picked the minnow cleanly from the hook.

No big deal, right? Except that the loon wouldn’t leave. It swam right up to the boat and sat there, presumably waiting for another minnow meal. And so I slowly got the camera out of the bag and started snapping photos as Steve tossed a couple of dead minnows over the side.

There’s an encounter we’ll never forget. And from a photography standpoint, the same thing happened. Two of the dozens of images I captured were at some perfectly unusual angle, for the iridescent feathers on the loon’s head ended up imaging in pure, beautiful green.

You read that right. Not a stitch of black in those head feathers, just green. It’s one of the strangest things I’ve ever witnessed and in the 15 years since, it has never happened again where a loon head photographed in solid green.

Persistence pays. So does patience. I turn around my boat and truck a lot in hopes of snapping photos of things I’ve seen. It usually doesn’t work, but nothing teaches more character and skill than failure. And the only real failure is accepting defeat instead of trying again.

One benefit of the digital age is what these cameras can do in low-light conditions, often eliminating dreadful shadows that always haunted photographers in the film days. And you can shoot hundreds and thousands of photos with no extra cost for processing.

The digital equipment is so much better today, and so inexpensive to operate without film and processing costs, that learning to shoot photos has never been easier.

What the would-be outdoor photographer has to avoid are cameras with slow focus speeds, which cause serious delays between pressing the shutter button and actually getting the shot. We use Canon ultrasonic lenses, and they are affordable.

Good nature photos are just part of this hobby’s reward. More interesting are the stories behind some of the photos — the fabric of what makes the North Woods such a special place to live, work and play.

Whether it’s watching beavers in a trout stream, pine martens in the national forest or a red fox on the hunt, photos are a great way to preserve those stories and memories for a lifetime.

So get outdoors with a camera and eventually, the unexpected will happen. Remem­ber what you’re out there for. Don’t miss the shot.