I took this photo of a black-tailed jackrabbit back in the spring of 2007, I entered the Coastal Bend Wildlife Photo Contest. It was founded because 99% of the land in Texas is privately owned and most of that land holds a bounty of natural resources. As part of the contest, the photographer is paired with a landowner, gets access to that land, and then shoots a portfolio of images to highlight the natural history that’s there. The best photos win cash prizes and the most recent contest had a total payout of $50,000. I placed seventh overall and started what has been the last 13 years of my life.
My photo of the black-tailed jackrabbit won second place in the rabbits and hares category of the contest. To this day, it is one of the highest selling images I have ever taken.
I remember that evening like it was yesterday. My entrance into the contest paired me with the Hoffman Ranch in Alice, Texas. The ranch was managed by the family’s son, Brent Hoffman, who happened to be pretty close in age to me. Brent and I spent weeks driving around looking for animals in that late afternoon light.
The ranch is obviously private property so there isn’t an open container law. What’s wrong with this picture? Absolutely nothing, if you like bourbon and beer. For the record, Brent and I do.
I had seen this rabbit multiple evenings prior, only to have him bolt as the truck would approach picture-taking distance. He and his mate had a nest really close to the ranch road we would drive down to access other areas of the property, so I knew he wasn’t going anywhere. In fact, we saw him so many times before I shot this photo, that we nicknamed him Jack.
This night was a little different though. He didn’t bolt as we approached. It was the nickname, he felt as if we knew each other now.
In true hunter style, Brent pulled what we dubbed the “death roll” as we both spotted the rabbit at road’s edge. The death roll is a magically executed momentum roll with the engine cut at the perfect distance from the subject as to allow for an optimal photographing experience. Brent had perfectly executed the death roll this time, putting the front bumper perpendicular to the rabbit. In photographer speak, the truck became the perfect mobile blind.
As the truck was in the death roll, I opened the passenger door—which creaked, begging for oil, like a classic ranch truck should. Simultaneously, adding a 2x teleconverter to my 600mm lens and pre-metering my scene. I quietly grabbed tripod, with camera and lens attached, as I stepped out of the truck onto dry and dusty Texas dirt. Using the truck as my shield, I tip-toed, low and slow to the front bumper. In a surprised, M&M’s meet Santa Clause TV commercial moment, both rabbit and photographer met. My heart was pounding as we both froze. I manually focused and verified my exposure settings. Click.
Settings and Equipment
Canon EOS-5D | Canon EF600mm f/4L IS USM lens | Canon EF 2.0x teleconverter | Gitzo aluminum tripod | Wimberley gimbal head
ISO 400 | f/8 | Shutter 1/25 of a second | Spot & Manual metering
Originally processed using Photoshop 6 on a second gen. Apple Mac Pro