Deer In No Headlights

Sometimes, I have an idea of where I want to go and what I want to photograph for my Photo of the Day (POTD) project. And on those days, I simply go out there and capture that image.

On the first day of  the project, I sought a school bus that I knew was sitting out in a field between Barrhaven and Richmond. I had seen it many times on bike rides, be it alone, with DW, or in a group with the Ottawa Bicycle Club. I don't know what that bus is doing in that field, other than dying a slow, rusty death.

I purposely set out to the abandoned house, near the Long Island Locks, to capture the gloomy old structure in a snow storm. I drove up to Wakefield, to capture the covered bridge over the Gatineau River. I've visited Hog's Back Falls during the spring runoff and pulled over along Colonel By Drive, not far from Ottawa University, to grab a collection of tower cranes over our growing city.

Some shots come just by chance. Like, when I stopped in front of our mailbox just as a flock of cedar waxwings alit on the tree across from me. Or when I passed a group of parked diggers as the sun set in Kanata. Or even when, on my way to work, I spied a sun dog on Prince of Wales Drive.

But it's when I have an idea for a shot, head out to take it, and find something else that completely sidetracks my plans.

Yesterday, as the fog started to creep over the Gatineau Hills and I was leaving the office for the day, I decided to take a little drive through those hills, in search of a vantage from which I could get both the fog and the bare trees on the hills.

I crossed the other side of Highway 5 and took the winding roads of Notch and Chemin de la Montagne, which hitches up where the rolling hills of the southern end of the Canadian Shield and the flat Ottawa Valley meet.

Not wanting to venture too far—I did enough of that on Saturday night—I decided to duck into a small community called Hollow Glen. I learned that the roads are very bad at this time of year: lots of pot holes and plenty of chunks of asphalt to kick up into the wheel wells. My suspension took a pounding as I tried to dodge as many deep recesses as possible.

In the centre of this residential neighbourhood lies a long, narrow lake, called Lac Mountains (I know, English and French together, but that's how it's labelled on Google Maps and I'm sure the English name of this community is no accident: there are lots of English street names around here).

As I crossed a small overpass on the east end of the lake, I saw a vantage that suited my idea for a shot, but I wanted to keep driving, to see what else lay ahead. I could always circle back, and as I approached the western end of Lac Mountains, that was my intent. I turned right, off Chemin Kelly, onto Chemin Hollow Glen, and approached another overpass, when I looked out onto the lake. What I saw changed my mind about heading to the first spot.

Out on the lake, heading toward me were four deer. I stopped the car, picked up my camera, and took a few quick shots. Instantly realizing I didn't have the best lens for shooting (but not harming) wildlife, I jumped back in the car and quickly switched to my 70–300mm lens.


Everything happened so quickly that I didn't have much time to think. If I had had more time, I would have increased the ISO level. I would have switched from aperture priority to shutter-speed priority. But the deer weren't going to wait for me.

With the telephoto zoom on, I hopped out and started shooting again. The deer had reached where the lake met the road and leaped over the guard rails. One at a time, they hopped onto the road, stopped to look at me, crossed, and then hopped over the rails on the other side of the road, where a ravine led them out of sight.


I knew the photos weren't the best, that I was shooting too slow to capture moving objects. I had initially set my camera to capture landscape, had intended on mounting it onto my tripod. But the deer were too close, were too good to pass up.

They aren't what I had intended to photograph. But once captured, I had no choice to make them my POTD.

And I can always return to shoot still life another time. 
 

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