“Wildlife is my passion, what I like to do the most,” said John Fast, 68, of New London, Conn., who has been coming to Maine for 30 years with his camera.
Fast started photographing the coast and lighthouses, but found he would rather seek out wildlife; more specifically, the big animals. For the past few years, he has been traveling to Baxter State Park to capture moose on camera.
“A lot of people don’t understand why you’d want to go up repeatedly to photograph moose,” he said. “It’s the anticipation of something unusual happening. I’m willing to spend hours and hours watching.”
He followed a fox family for three days to capture a profile of a certain fox pup. On the third day, the pup left its brothers and sisters and walked toward Fast’s hideout. Before it reached him, the young fox picked a feather from the ground and held it between its teeth for a few moments. Fast captured the moment in three photos.
“You just don’t know what the next moment will bring. Usually it’s nothing, but that’s why I go,” he said.
At Baxter State Park, he sleeps in a Roaring Brook lean-to, wakes an hour before sunrise, straps on a headlamp and makes his way down to Sandy Stream Pond or Stump Pond.
This October was one of his poorest trips for moose sightings because of the windy weather. On Wednesday he saw a bull, cow and calf at Stump Pond. Thursday morning he spied a bull.
“I’m not a moose expert, but I think they kind of hunker down in this kind of wind and aren’t as likely to show themselves,” Fast said.
He typically visits Maine twice a year, in spring and fall. In October, the amorous bulls chase cows, become careless and are more accessible to photographers, he said. In the spring, young moose still have velvety antlers.
Fast became a photographer at age 12 while visiting his father in Africa. He was given a 35 mm rangefinder camera to shoot the landscape, coastline and castles of Africa.
He has been to Florida for the birds and North Carolina for wild horses. Alaska, where large animals roam in abundance, is his favorite destination. During one of his four trips to Alaska, he was led by a state guide to a congregation of 63 grizzly bears fishing in Brooks River.
“I do think the Maine coastline is really unique to the Eastern coast,” he said. One of his favorite coastal trips was to Cutler where he hitched a boat to Machias Seal Island to observe seals, puffins, razorbills, terns and gannets.
He used to photograph with a Canon EOS-1V camera and process the film in his own darkroom. Four years ago, he switched to a Canon 1D Mark III digital camera with a Canon 600 mm f/4 Image Stabilized lens.
“I don’t have to worry about the expense of shooting film,” he said. “But I still have a slow trigger finger, still have the reluctance.”
His digital camera shoots 10 frames a second, which has turned out to be a great feature for catching birds in flight. He also has experimented with scenic bracketing to create panoramas and teaches Photoshop at galleries near his home.
Although Fast prefers to work alone, he belongs to the Digital Imaging Association and has attended its annual photo safari and conference.
For information about John Fast and to see more of his photos, visit www.johnfastphotography.com or imagingthenaturalworld.com. For information about the Digital Imaging Association, visit digitalassociation.org.