Michael Forsberg: Moving Slowly to Capture the Swift Fox

Author: Coburn Dukehart, Photographer: Michael Forsberg

Photographer Michael Forsberg is a patient man. A very. Patient. Man.

This trait came in extremely useful during an assignment to photograph swift foxes in the Buffalo Gap National Grassland in western South Dakota. Forsberg visited the prairielands multiple times over a three-year period to capture images of the tiny canids, which are about the size of a house cat.

This involved an extreme amount of lying and waiting in photo blinds—small camouflaged tents that he could barely sit up in. He would enter the tent before sunrise and stay there until the sun went down, sometimes even spending the night. And he very rarely shot photos.

Picture of swift fox
“They don’t like human presence, so you have to let them come to you on their terms, not the other way around.” PHOTOGRAPH BY MICHAEL FORSBERG

An excerpt from his field notes:

Conata Basin, Buffalo Gap National Grassland, South Dakota.
Agate west and Agate hillside den sites

  • 5:00 am. Summer solstice. Rain and no sunrise. Winds out of the north 20 mph and gusty. No foxes up and no movement on the prairie dog town minus a few horned larks shuffling in grass. Their calls sound like the tinkling of little bells. A lone pronghorn doe that bedded down overnight on the p-dog town is facing south chewing her cud.
  • 8:30 am. Rain stopped but winds continue. No foxes.
  • 11:00 am. No foxes.
  • 1:30 pm. Still no foxes…
  • 4:00 pm. Finally. A fox pup pokes its head out of the den and looks my way.

And so it went for more than 100 days in the field, over the course of three years, as he slowly built a collection of images showing the playful pups and their predator parents in their natural environment. (Check out the video at the top of the page.)

Picture of a swift fox and her pups
A swift fox mother is seen with her pups in the Buffalo Gap Grasslands National Grassland in western South Dakota.PHOTOGRAPH BY MICHAEL FORSBERG



For more of Michael Forsberg’s incredible journey, and to view the video of the elusive Swift Fox, visit:

 PROOF at NationalGeographic.com

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