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Encore Pose 988 (written 01/24/13)
Written By: OC Fotoguy
*Click images below to view larger versions.
Encore Pose 988 (written 01/24/13)
Encore Pose 988 (written 01/24/13)
Encore Pose 988 (written 01/24/13)
Encore Pose 988 (written 01/24/13)
Encore Pose 988 (written 01/24/13)
Encore Pose 988 (written 01/24/13)

    Wow!!! An impromptu, no notice or no appointment needed posed photo session with a one more time performance without being asked. All I had to do is be there, be ready, and, of course, be lucky.  What Mother Nature shows me here in Big Cypress, where I camp 26 miles deep in America’s Jungle is absolutely incredibly fabulous. It was a chilly 50 degrees at 7a.m. as I rolled out of bed from under my sheet and blanket; and I had pulled the unzipped sleeping bag over me in the middle of the night.  I have no interest in being cold; that’s why I come to our country’s warm places in the winter. If I liked cold weather I’d have stayed in Ocean City, where it’s snowed and been in the 20s and 30s frequently in January. I had the radio on and the weather guesser was giving her forecast, saying the skies would be cloudless and the temperatures would be in the mid seventies by noon, tomorrow near 80 and the next day even warmer.
    That’s what I wanted to hear but for this morning, as I savor my coffee (one part baker’s chocolate, 2 parts coffee, a dash of cinnamon and nutmeg, and an ample amount of powdered creamer), I am peering out the window while I select several layers of shirts, a fleece sweater and jeans. Sandals would be fine for my feet. It was chilly, not cold. I fill my megasized thermomug with my coffee mixture and put a breakfast bar in my pocket. I knew I’d put on too many clothes to be in the mid morning sun, so I decided to take a short walk, then come back in an hour or so and change to summer attire.
    I walk the short dirt road from Pink Jeep Camp Ground, where you need an off road vehicle permit to drive here, to a gravel road, Bear Island Grade, and turn west towards Route US 29, which is about five miles away. I was enjoying sipping my beverage when I looked into the distance, where my eyes had picked up movement.  OMG something really big was about a half mile away.  I put the camera on it with my 400mm telephoto lens extended all the way and watched the large thing separate in to two. They were panthers. Wow! One was much smaller than the other and they were coming my way on the gravel road.  The smaller one was bounding playfully in a short prancing gait, that was almost hops and rapidly coming towards me. The other was much larger; probably the mother of this juvenile one, and was walking much slower in a fluid powerful manner. There was no breeze so my scent did not reach them, but they had to see me standing in the middle of the road. When the younger one got about seventy-five yards away, it left the road way. The larger one kept coming my way, paused at where the younger had left the road, then continued towards me. I had fired about twenty-five photos and had some incredible ones, but now I was getting a little antsy that this powerful, agile beast that could be very quick and deftly deadly to its prey was rapidly closing the 50 yards of ground between us. What would it do? What should I do?  Retreat, make quick aggressive motions in the panther’s direction, or just wait to see what would happen. I rarely see any wild animals be aggressive, except snakes or spiders. They will nail you. I just watched.  The panther stopped, looked around, and sat down directly facing me in the road!!!  Aggressive, dangerous, violent - not at the moment; it looked into the brush where maybe the juvenile was, then left and right.   I snapped more photos.
    Then I heard voices behind me. I looked over my shoulder and two hunters with their weapons were coming up from behind. They were also camped at Pink Jeep. They didn’t see what had happened in previous minutes, and obviously didn’t see the panther. I motioned like when you signal to a car to slow down. It got their attention; they stopped about twenty yards behind me, then they saw the panther, and stopped talking. When I’m out to do serious wildlife photography, I don’t want another person along. Talking will ensue, will distract me, be too noisy and scare away what I may’ve seen. We stood there looking at the panther and it was looking at us! Every time it looked to the rear I advanced several feet, till I was less than twenty yards away. With each advance I fired photos. My excitement was racing!  Then it casually got up and walked off the road.
    I’d glanced at the time after it sat down and I took a bunch of photos. It was 8a.m. and when it left the trail it was 8:15.  We had been staring at each other for fifteen incredible minutes. I wonder what was going through its mind? I turned and walked to fellow campers, and we exchanged expressions of extreme amazement and explanatory guesses of why the panther had acted the way it did. Why?  What was its intent? Was it protecting the younger one by diverting our attention?  Who knows? They were going squirrel hunting, but since the panther was in the area they were going, they decided to go elsewhere.  I said I was going to walk in the direction of where the panther left the trail.
    As I started it came out of the brush and palmettos and sat down in a profile position for an encore. I moved forward to full frame position of about ten yards, did more photos, which were superb, complete with several at shutter speeds less than 1/125 of a second, which is as slow as I usually hand hold the camera. The 1/60 ones are pretty sharp and 1/30 sharpness is OK, so the lens’ image stabilization is effective. Wow! I’ll be here six more days. If I don’t see another impressive thing, Mother Nature has outdone herself. Oh yeah, another bell ringer photo op and this one went around the moon!
Bob R  o.c.FotoGuy
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