The Camera You Have With You: A White Squirrel
As a card-carrying member (#249, Pentax chapter) of the Worldwide Squirrel Shooters Association, I am always on the lookout for a good squirrel photo opportunity. In general, one needs a fast DSLR with a relatively long lens for this endeavour (a 70-300mm zoom works well), but sometimes a chance encounter with a rare squirrel will have you shooting with whatever camera you may have, because a lousy photo is better than no photo at all.
Such was the encounter I had today. I was driving home early in the morning; it was cold but sunny, and I was in a rush to drop the car off at home before walking to work (I know this sounds backwards, but that’s my life). I had just turned into my street when I saw a white, fuzzy flash of fur cross the road. I looked to the pavement on my left, and right there, looking back at me with beady, red eyes, was a white squirrel. A white squirrel! Possibly the most prized photograph a member of the WSSA can take! I stopped the car immediately.
With trembling hands I took my Canon S90 from my jacket pocket and fumbled to turn it on. Alas, I was too slow, and sensing that she was in danger of being photographed, the white squirrel had fled through a hole in a fence. But I was not giving up! I parked the car and walked stealthily towards the fence; I could hear some rustling and the occasional flash of white in the bushes behind the fence. When I was some 5m away a sudden frenzy of shaking branches and the sound of little feet scampering announced the white squirrel’s departure. All was silent.
I reached the fence and peered over into a large garden with trees in the far side. Nothing moved, and there was no trace of the white squirrel, only the sound of far away traffic. I waited for a minute or so, camera ready and zoomed out to the max, set to Av and auto ISO; I was not going to miss again. And then I saw it. Sitting motionless atop a fence post, it had been there all along, yet remained invisible to my eyes. Not anymore.
I pointed the camera at it and took a few shots (the above is a resized JPEG straight from the camera). I wasn’t close enough for a high quality portrait, but I knew I at least had evidence of my encounter. All of a sudden a regular squirrel appeared in the branches above the white squirrel and started shrieking. The white squirrel shrieked back and scurried up the tree, possibly to claim it as her own. I snapped a few shots while this happened, then sensing it would not be leaving its tree nor coming any closer, I left it to its own devices, my mission accomplished.
As I walked to work a few minutes later I whistled a tune while admiring my catch on the rear LCD screen; I will even admit I skipped a little. It was a cold but sunny morning—and I had just photographed a white squirrel.
The image below is a 100% crop from the first frame, with a little bit of sharpening added.