Behind the Lens: Young Whitetail in the Pines

by Mark Bowie | Photography

Young Whitetail in the Pines, near Indian Lake

Exposure Data:
1/500 sec, f/4.5, ISO 100
Nikon D600 Camera, Nikkor 80-200mm lens at 200mm

A faulty radiator stranded me in Indian Lake for a couple days while a local mechanic awaited parts. So long as I didn’t drive for long, the vehicle could limp around without overheating, so I decided to make the most of the situation and go photographing. A young whitetail deer, snowflakes on its coat, sauntered through a stand of pines on the outskirts of the village. I shot this image handheld with a telephoto lens at a wide aperture. The ambient brightness allowed me to shoot a sufficiently fast shutter speed to freeze the animal’s motion and potentially mine.

I framed the scene purposefully, so that the undulating snow in the foreground and beyond adds more layering to the image, and visually balances the lower third, with the pines of the upper two-thirds. And it’s a subtle point, but by photographing the deer while his hind end was behind a tree makes it appear as if the animal is coming out from behind it, and not divided in two if we were to see it on both sides of the tree. I like to think I had the forethought of shooting it this way!

The muted colors of the season weren’t helping, so I converted the image to black and white. Suddenly the patterns and textures of the pines leapt forward. But they became too dominant, visually overwhelming the deer. I decided to tame them by softening them. In Photoshop, I duplicated the image layer, added a Gaussian blur, then dialed back the opacity of the blur layer to taste. The patterns and textures softened considerably, as I expected, but left the image a bit too dreamy, at the expense of nice details. To bring some back,  I painted on the blur layer’s white mask with a black brush, selectively varying the opacity as I dabbed, revealing by degrees, the sharp layer below. It was so liberating! I painted in looping swirls with the flow of the splaying pine needles, and leaving unpainted areas with the soft blur. I felt like a painter experimenting with a new technique. The creativity flowed.

And ultimately, that’s what I want my photography to be —creative. Surely the diminutive deer steals the scene, but the textures and swirls of the pines command attention in their own right.

Mark Bowie is a frequent contributor to Adirondack Life magazine and a much sought-after public speaker, offering presentations for conferences, camera clubs and other groups. He is a staff instructor for the Adirondack Photography Institute. His next API workshop is in the Finger Lakes region, photographing waterfalls. For information and to register, see API’s website: For more on Mark’s work, visit

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