by D. Simon Jackson
May 4, 2014
Jasper National Park in Alberta is a remarkable wilderness and one of our favourite places to spend time searching for animals. And within Jasper, there is one area in particular that has produced some of our best black bear photography anywhere: Maligne Lake Road.
Almost every evening while camping in Jasper, we'll drive this road slowly, looking for bears, but occasionally we'll stumble across something even cooler. Like a red fox.
Something better than a bear? Yes. But I should back up.
I have a spotty history with foxes. I've seen plenty, but usually they’re dashing out of my sightline. Or are in poor lighting. Or my camera malfunctions. You get the picture. Or, in my case, not.
Up until this moment in Jasper, I'd only really had one great, prolonged fox photo sequence. So when we spotted a red fox trotting down Maligne Road ahead of our car - in decent light, no less - I was more than a little excited.
As we drove slowly, wondering where the fox would go, he suddenly veered to his left and into the trees. Dark thoughts about another failed fox photo were dancing in my head.
Ahead of the forest where the fox entered was a small meadow. If it chose to continue running east, then there was the chance that this is where it would pop out. We parked and sat quietly in our car, with our cameras at the ready.
Well, sure enough, the fox came running out of the trees and right toward where we'd parked.
I'm holding down my shutter, taking shot after shot, with the assumption the fox would soon run by us. I assumed wrong.
It ran until it was nearly beside our car. Stopped. Yawned. And took a nap.
For two hours.
Suddenly I went from having no fox photos to having about a thousand.
But the fun was only starting.
For the few people who bothered to stop - and look - they were rewarded with an unusually close red fox. Everyone appeared to be in awe of the fox. But no one was as patient. After the masses had left, the red fox sat up, and started running again.
And it ran. Down the centre line of the road. For miles.
What started as a photo pursuit gave way to a police-like motorcade protection service. We'd drive ahead of blind corners in order to stop traffic and ensure the fox's safe passage while it stubbornly refused to leave the roadway. And as soon as it went by us, we'd race ahead to the next blind corner.
This went on for about 15km.
Occasionally, the fox would leave the road to hunt - allowing us a few, brief photos - before it would return to the road and we'd return to our protection service duty.
Finally, the fox reached Medicine Lake and left the road for good.
We moved on and stopped at the lake's small western parking lot to admire the fading light on the mountains and reflect on the incredible - and stressful - fox encounter. It was a beautiful view and a nice way to close out the evening.
Apparently the fox agreed.
Suddenly, emerging to our right, the fox walked along the shoreline and almost beside where we were quietly sitting.
For once, my laziness in not wanting to switch from telephoto to landscape lens for the sunset paid off and I was rewarded with the best images of the night.
It was almost like the fox was apologizing for risking its life and causing us concern. Or maybe it was just perplexed as to why we had stolen its sunset viewpoint.
Either way, it trotted beside us, crossed the road (without looking both ways - damn you fox!) and finally went up the hillside for good.
Simon Jackson is an award-winning and widely-published nature photographer.
Since seeing his first bear at the age of seven, Simon’s passion for the wild has been fuelled by his passion for nature photography, believing the camera can freeze moments that inspire a wired world to appreciated the interconnectedness of all life.
Simon founded the Spirit Bear Youth Coalition at the age of 13 and, for almost two decades, led the largest youth-led environmental movement in the world in the pursuit of saving the white Kermode bear, also known as the spirit or ghost bear. For his efforts, he has been named a Hero for the Planet by Time Magazine and was selected as one of the 100 Guardian Angels of the Planet by UNESCO and the Founding Congress of the Green Games.
Today, Simon focuses on speaking, writing, and strategy to help put forward a 21st Century vision for nature and uses photography to enhance his message. His images have appeared in books, films, newspapers, magazines, textbooks, and even museums around the world, including Time Magazine and National Geographic.
Email is: firstname.lastname@example.org