Why Aren't There
More Photos of
by The BFRO
Skeptics point to the scarcity of the photographic evidence. Although no skeptic has ever been able to debunk the best footage that is available, they wonder why there isn't a lot more footage of sasquatches to begin with. Quick logic suggests there would be miles of footage if they were really in our forests, especially considering how much footage there is of every other large land animal species in our country.
These are the sorts of issues that get explained vividly as one explores this old 'legend' in the field, and as one probes the 'prevailing wisdom' about it in our communities.
Along with the Patterson footage there are a handful of short, blurry film clips that *may* depict real sasquatches. Neither the Patterson footage, nor any of these other lesser clips, possess the quality that viewers have come to expect from commercial wildlife footage.
Over the past few decades televised wildlife documentaries have significantly altered popular perceptions about wildlife photography. Many people have come to assume that any terrestrial animal can be located, followed and filmed in the wild by professional cameramen without much difficulty. With that in mind it is hard for the general public to accept that a large animal species in North America could consistently elude wildlife photographers. These perceptions seem logical enough, but most people are simply uninformed about the elements involved.
As with the odds of a random hunter killing a sasquatch, there are many unique and unusual factors to consider when evaluating the odds of a random photographer obtaining photos or films of a sasquatch. I use the term "random photographer" to describe someone who is not specifically looking for a sasquatch, but who may find himself in a position to photograph or videotape one because he is carrying a camera with him.
A random photographer's odds must be analyzed differently than the odds of someone who specifically looking for a sasquatch. I will first discuss the odds of a random photographer, before discussing the odds of a "sasquatch photographer."
The vast majority of people who carry cameras or camcorders with them in forests are tourists and vacationers. They are usually not professional wildlife photographers. Tourists and vacationers are usually found in places where there are lots of other tourists and vacationers around. This class of photographer rarely gets far away from the crowd. They can be found en mass along the maintained trails and roads in places Yosemite, Yellowstone, and the Grand Canyon. The adventurous nature tourist may occasionally throw on a backpack and join a smaller group headed to a less crowded location. These trips still happen along marked trails or down rivers that get relatively consistent human traffic.
Safety concerns keep most backpackers close to marked and maintained trails. Only the more experienced backpackers venture along infrequently used trails, and even the most experienced backpackers stick to some kind of a trail when venturing into a dense forest.
Elusive forest animals, on the other hand, do not stick to maintained trails. A large forest animal does not need to be super intelligent to know the routes used by other animals, especially humans. If a bear or mountain lion travels along a trail frequented by humans, it will normally use the trail at night when it is less likely to have a surprise encounter. In those rare instances where a surprise encounter occurs along a trail, the animal will slip back into the woods within a few seconds, usually before a backpacker can get a camera ready to shoot a single frame.
Most nature tourists, even backpackers, carry cameras mainly for the purpose of photographing themselves, their fellow travelers and landscape views. They've brought along their camera to preserve the memory of their vacation, not to photograph a quick moving animal. Thus they usually don't carry their cameras in their hands until they are at a place where they know they are going to take a photograph. Nature tourists and backpackers almost always carry their cameras securely inside their backpacks. It usually takes more than a minute for the average tourist to take off the backpack, fish the camera out of the bag, deal with the lens cap, try to focus the camera, find the subject in the view finder, and take the shot.
The mere desire to photograph a large, dangerous-looking wild animal always depends on the comfort level of the tourist. Photographing a group of large hungry polar bears poses no threat when the tourist is seated safely inside a large heated bus that is designed specifically for the purpose of thwarting large hungry polar bears. Similarly, photographing "park bears" eating from a garbage dump in Yellowstone is not an uncomfortable situation because lots of other people are also standing around taking pictures.
The situation is totally different when a backpacker observes a large, dangerous-looking animal while hiking through a forest. A confrontation with a bear or mountain lion in a forest can be a very frightening experience even if the animal turns and runs away. When a surprise confrontation occurs the observer is usually very concerned about his/her safety. The observer does not think about taking pictures at that moment, even if the witness has a camera in hand. This is sometimes called the "Drive-by Shooting Effect".
In Los Angeles in the 1980's and early 1990's, drive-by shootings were a nightly occurrence. Hundreds of people were killed every year in these shootings, and there were thousands of witness to these incidents, collectively. Yet, there is only one piece of video footage of an actual drive-by shooting. This is an astounding fact that defies superficial logic, considering that Los Angeles is one of the media capitals of the world, where loads of people have cameras, and try to make a buck with them.
The one piece of footage was actually a fluke. It was obtained by a freelance TV crew that happened to be testing their gear in a dark downtown neighborhood when the incident quickly unfolded in front of them. All one guy had to do was turn the camera around on the tripod, then hit the deck.
When people witness drive-by shootings, the thought of videotaping the event does not cross their minds during the observation, or immediately afterward. A surprise, fleeting confrontation with a sasquatch triggers a similar degree of sudden, intense fear, along with a lot of bewilderment. The combined effects tend to eliminate any thoughts of a photo opportunity until the witness feels completely safe ... which means not seeing the animal anymore, and being far from the place where it was seen. At that stage, of course, the photo opportunity is long gone.
For a sasquatch to be an easy target for photographers, it would have to be repeatedly out in the open, in daylight, and in a predictable place where humans are around. Reports indicate that sasquatches prefer to remain in thick forests, venturing out only after nightfall, and they seem to feel very vulnerable if observed by humans. The odds of a random person photographing a sasquatch are therefore poor, because those opportunities are exceedingly rare to begin with, especially in daylight.
The odds of a "sasquatch photographer" have to be analyzed differently. A sasquatch photographer is more prepared to handle the surprise of an encounter because he has likely played out the situation in his mind several times over. He knows the sasquatch may dash off quickly, so the camera is more handy. He may even have a night-vision attachment for his camera. Even with these advantages a sasquatch photographer still faces several daunting hindrances.
Before addressing the major hindrances it's important to note that there aren't many sasquatch photographers who actually get into the field on a regular basis. The skeptic assumes there must be hundreds, or at least dozens, of people who are consistently in the field trying to photograph sasquatches. In reality, the number of people in North America who are out in the field every weekend trying to track sasquatches may be less than five at the present time. The number of people in North America who are employed full time attempting to get footage of a sasquatch is zero (0). Only a few dozen investigators get into the field roughly once a month.
Rarely does a sasquatch photographer remain in the field for more than a few days at a time. Everyone on the sasquatch field research scene today has a day job. There are no paid positions in sasquatch field research.
As surprising as it may sound, no television wildlife production company or wildlife magazine has ever put a professional wildlife photographer in the field for more than a few days in an attempt to obtain footage. When production companies have produced programs dealing with sasquatches they've always ended up focusing their attention on sasquatch researchers and theorists, rather than trying to get their own footage.
Part of the problem is that production companies don't have the luxury of planning for long-term projects with uncertain odds of success. It's always much easier to plan to spend a few days or weeks tagging along with folks who call themselves sasquatch researchers, and interviewing them, and showing the stock footage, and asking the cliche' questions.
By necessity, TV producers are not long-term project managers. The expenses involved in TV production demand strenuous deadlines and reliable project completions. Sasquatches, for better or worse, do not lend themselves to that kind of short-term media planning.
One practical long-term plan for a sasquatch photographer would be to follow up on recent reports, pin-pointing promising areas to patrol on horseback at least a few times a year for several days at a time. Sasquatch photographers almost never have the time or resources to conduct these kinds of repeated, extended horsepacking trips. In fact, the last pair of guys who actually did this over the course of a few years were Roger Patterson and Bob Gimlin. They approached the challenge from this angle because their jobs were seasonal, they were experienced backwoods hunters, and they had access to horses. Patterson and Gimlin also had a decent communication network in the Pacific Northwest. The stayed abreast of the most recent sightings and track finds in Northern California, Oregon and Washington. In 1967 lots of tracks started turning up in Northern California's Bluff Creek area as new roads were being bulldozed for logging. Tracks were found along the new roads and then down in the creek bed. Patterson and Gimlin got wind of the track finds and set out on horseback for several days along the creek. On horseback they could travel long distances each day and easily patrol areas rarely seen by humans.
The creek bed was more open in late 1967. Earlier that year a major storm had caused massive flooding in Northern California. As a result, the creek bed of Bluff Creek had little more than sand bars, mud flats, and flood debris in many places. For several months after the floods, animals had to venture out in the open and walk across the mud and sand to get to water. This would have been an important contributing factor for why so many tracks were found that year, and it was obviously an important factor allowing Patterson to film the sasquatch as it retreated from the water's edge back to the tree line. Today the location looks very different from the way it appeared in the 1967. Trees and brush have grown back with a vengeance in the creek bottom. If Patterson and Gimlin's ride took place today they wouldn't be able to see the figure from where they first spotted it, nor would they have an unobstructed view of it as it walked back into the tall trees.
The hindrances faced by a sasquatch photographer stem mainly from the elusive habits of sasquatches. Almost any other type of terrestrial animal (land animal) is easier to locate and photograph not only because there are more of them, but also because they are in more predictable locations. Sasquatches are nomadic, nocturnal to some degree, and extremely wary of humans. Their food requirements and social structure may force them to migrate from place to place on a frequent basis and in an unpredictable pattern.
Other large forest dwelling animals such as wolves, cougars and bears have much more predictable territories. Within those territories they can be baited, darted, carted to a field production area, then photographed continuously within a fenced perimeter which has been constructed in their natural habitat. This technique makes it easier for the cameraman to locate the subject day after day for filming, and it creates the impression that the cameraman has skillfully approached the wild subject and can follow it consistently through unrestricted habitat as it hunts, feeds and reproduces. Much of wildlife videography is "staged" this way.
The nocturnal habits of sasquatches create a substantial hindrance to a photographer. The lighting problem makes the effort much more costly because it requires expensive night-vision equipment and/or infrared illumination to circumvent. Illuminating a sasquatch with a bright light apparently doesn't have the mesmerizing effect it has with deer. The few sasquatch researchers who claimed to have briefly spotlighted a sasquatch say it only lasted a few seconds, and they weren't given a second opportunity. Sasquatches apparently do not like having lights shined in their eyes. They won't attack people who illuminate them, but they will retreat quickly into the brush and leave the immediate vicinity.
For many years a major hindrance for sasquatch photographers was finding out where sasquatches have been sighted. Sasquatch photographers are still quite dependent on the most recent leads from witnesses because last year's information may not be relevant unless it helps to establish a solid pattern. For the last twenty years the main problem in gathering data from witnesses was that most witnesses were afraid to make reports, or didn't know where to make reports. Outlandish supermarket tabloids with bogus sasquatch tales had a tremendous silencing effect on most witnesses. These tabloids hijacked the term "Bigfoot" and turned it into cartoon monster figure, rather than a common name for a whole group of animals. These ubiquitous publications made witnesses vulnerable to ridicule and teasing, as their observations were placed on a level with "Elvis sightings". Dispatchers for law enforcement and park rangers typically did not record these kinds of reports and often insulted witnesses who called. Sasquatch researchers wanted these reports but witnesses usually didn't know who the researchers were, or how to reach them.
Sasquatch researchers had better success locating witnesses in areas like the Pacific Northwest where people speak more openly about their sasquatch sightings. In the northwest in general people are more open to the idea of sasquatches, so in smaller communities most people would hear about sightings or track finds by other local residents. Those reports would eventually get to those who wanted to document them.
In the late 1990's the internet has greatly facilitated communications between witnesses and those who are seriously interested in witness reports. Via the internet witnesses can more easily find and contact sasquatch researchers. More recent reports are making their way to researchers and investigators so the locations can be more easily plotted. This new communication channel has surprised many veteran researchers because of the quantity and quality of reports from forested regions that were not formerly thought of as "bigfoot country". Many of the eastern states, the Great Lakes region and the Appalachians apparently have as many credible recent eyewitnesses as the Pacific Northwest.
The internet isn't the only new technology that will facilitate sasquatch research in the future. Various types of compact video systems are becoming more affordable each year. Some of these systems allow for unmanned video surveillance of a target area. Unmanned systems may prove to be key devices for obtaining a good quantity of close-range daylight footage.
In summation, there are a few reasons why there is such a small quantity of photographic documentation of sasquatches: a) there aren't many people in the field who are trying to photograph them, b) no professional wildlife production company wants to commit to a systematic, long-term effort the way Patterson and Gimlin did, and c) until very recently some crucial technology has not been affordable or available.
With more reports becoming available to the public in a timely manner via the internet, and unmanned camera systems becoming more affordable, new people will be attempting new photographic techniques in new areas. This could soon lead to some unprecedented images that may have an enormous impact not only on sasquatch research, but also on natural history and science in general.
Other Articles by the BFRO
Why Hasn't a Hunter Shot One Yet ?!
The Minaret Skull
Deer Kills and Bigfoots
The Bigfoot-Giganto Theory
Monitoring and Recording Forest Sounds
Ohio Field Research: Eyewitness Sketches and Sound Recordings
About the BFRO
Bigfoot Field Researchers' Homepage
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