The story behind this photo of a raccoon peeking out of an abandoned '70s Ford Pinto
Saskatchewan's Jason Bantle is a finalist at the Wildlife Photographer of the Year awards
Jason Bantle has spent countless evenings quietly camping out in the Saskatchewan wilderness trying to snap the perfect photo of a momma raccoon emerging from the 1970s Ford Pinto she's been raising her kits in.
The Canadian wildlife photographer spent years watching as the raccoon raised several consecutive litters in the old car on an abandoned farm in the forest near Sonningdale, Sask., coming and going through a small hole in the windshield where a rearview mirror used to be.
Usually, she only comes out in the dead of the night, when it's time to hunt for her kits. But one evening in June 2017, Bantle got lucky.
"She came out right at dusk," he told As It Happens host Carol Off. "She had to be absolutely still for a half a second, which, in wildlife photography, to capture an animal that's still for half a second is almost near impossible."
Bantle's photo, called Lucky Break, made the prestigious "highly commended" list at the U.K. Natural Museum of History's Wildlife Photographer of the Year awards, and will be featured at the museum's exhibit running from Oct. 18, 2019, to May 31, 2020, in London.
"It's surreal. You know what you're going for, but can you actually get it?" he said. "And when you get it, the feeling inside is just huge."
The key to getting the shot was being "patient and respectful," Bantle said.
First of all, he stayed 30 metres away from the car at all times, concealed inside a photo blind — a structure designed to help wildlife photographers blend into the environment so as not to disturb their subjects.
He also always kept downwind from the Pinto so the momma wouldn't pick up his scent and get spooked.
"Then she might move her little kits and maybe she would move them to a place that wasn't as safe," he said. "You're always in their environments. I practice very ethical techniques."
Bantle remembers the moment he finally captured the critter in action. The sun was setting, he could hear the kits squealing in the back seat, and all of a sudden, she poked her head out.
"And at that point, she actually managed to squeeze her little body through her hole — well, her big body, actually, through that little hole — and she came right out and she stood on the hood of the vehicle and then she went over the top of the cab and off the back of the car and she was gone 20, 30 seconds later," he said.
"And I got my shot. It was incredible."
- AS IT HAPPENS: The story behind this photo of an eagle clutching a rabbit and a dangling fox
- AS IT HAPPENS: Photographer captures images of mama duck with 76 babies
But despite the years of quietly waiting, it's far from the most challenging assignment Bantle has ever been on.
He regularly travels to the Arctic to photograph polar bears in their natural habitats, he said.
"I have had some close calls for sure, especially on the Arctic Ocean ice with polar bears there. They're a dangerous carnivore and they do hunt you," he said.
"So thankfully the little raccoon, they don't hunt you. So it was just a matter of being patient and respectful."
Written by Sheena Goodyear. Interview produced by Sarah Jackson.