|Many critics of the sasquatch phenomenon point to the scarcity of photographic or video evidence as a reason to doubt the existence of the species. Although no one has ever debunked the best footage that is available, skeptics continue to question why sasquatch images are so rare. Quick logic suggests there should be miles of footage if the animals really do live in our forests, especially considering how much footage there is of other large North American mammals.|
It is possible to obtain footage/photos of these particular animals, but the odds of this happening randomly are sharply reduced by particular factors:
-- Sightings of sasquatches are unpredictable. They occur only in rural areas. Very few people in rural areas keep a decent camera handy at all times.
-- Witnesses consistently describe initial confusion and/or fear during their sighting.
-- Sightings typically last only a few seconds. A camcorder's auto-focus, by itself, takes a few seconds to adjust.
-- Very few people go out looking for these animals for the purpose of photographing them. Most bigfoot researchers are "arm chair" researchers.
-- Sasquatches seem to be on the move most of the time, following deer/elk herds like nomadic predators, or hunter-gatherers. There are no dens or nests that are occupied continuously or predictably. Their temporary dens and nests are quickly abandoned when approached by humans, so there's no easy way for wildlife paparazzi to catch them at home.
-- The only practical opportunities for footage or photos with everyday cameras are situations where a sasquatch is observed out in the open, in the day time, from a distance, for several minutes. Those situations are rarely described.
-- The typical habitats are dense, brushy, quiet forests, where human intruders can be heard well before they get within visual range. In those environments a person can be completely invisible to someone standing less than 10 feet away.
-- Sasquatches are likely nocturnal. Hunters and fisherman almost never hunt after dark without a flashlight or lamp.
-- Sasquatches are likely intelligent. Just as their bodies are much larger than humans', so, apparently, are their heads, and presumably their brain cavities as well. They don't live like humans, but they are certainly more complex than other ape species.
-- They may be the most elusive land mammal species of all, yet they receive the least amount of effort or attention from the government.
Although a handful of short blurry or inconclusive film clips *may* depict real sasquatches, neither the Patterson/Gimlin footage nor any of the lesser clips possess the quality that viewers have come to expect from commercial wildlife footage.
Commencing with the fifteen-minute telecast “The Nature of Things” (1948-1954), natural history documentaries significantly impacted common perceptions regarding wildlife photography. Popular programs such as “Marty Stouffer’s Wild America” and, in more recent years, “The Crocodile Hunter” contributed to the belief that any terrestrial (land) animal can be located, followed, and filmed in the wild by naturalists and professional cameramen without too much difficulty. With that in mind, it is hard for the general public to accept the premise that any large species can consistently elude determined film makers. While these conclusions may appear to be logical enough, most people are simply uninformed about the elements involved.
In addition to the failure of professional wildlife cinematographers to film a sasquatch, critics also emphasize the fact that millions of people live near or visit purported sasquatch habitat. Many of these people are armed with cameras. It stands to reason, according to the argument of skeptics, that sheer chance alone dictates that someone should see and photograph a sasquatch. As with the odds of a random hunter killing a sasquatch, there are many unique and unusual factors to consider when evaluating a random photographer’s odds for success.
The term "random photographer" is used here to describe someone toting a camera who is not specifically looking for a sasquatch. A random photographer's odds must be analyzed differently than the odds of someone who is specifically looking for a sasquatch.
The vast majority of people who have cameras or camcorders with them in forests are tourists and vacationers, not professional wildlife photographers. Tourists and vacationers are usually found in places where there are lots of other tourists and vacationers. This class of photographer rarely gets far away from crowds and is typically found along well kept trails and roads in popular destinations such as Yosemite, Yellowstone, Grand Canyon National Park, etc.
Adventurous nature tourists may occasionally don backpacks and join smaller groups headed to less crowded locations, but those trips still take place along marked trails or down rivers that endure relatively heavy and consistent human traffic. Safety concerns keep most backpackers close to marked and maintained trails. More experienced backpackers may venture into wilder mountainous or densely forested areas, but even here they generally stick to some kind of established footpath.
Elusive woodland or wilderness animals such as predators, on the other hand, do not generally use or rely on these same trails. Such creatures know the routes used by other animals and humans. If a bear or mountain lion were to travel along a trail frequented by people, it would normally use the trail at night, a time when it is less likely to have a surprise encounter with a human. In those rare instances when an unanticipated encounter occurs along a road or a maintained trail, animals like cougars, wolves and bears usually slip back into the woods within a few seconds, before a backpacker can get a camera ready to shoot a single frame.
Most nature tourists, even backpackers, carry cameras for the purpose of photographing themselves, fellow travelers, and landscapes. Cameras are brought to preserve vacation memories, not to photograph quick moving animals. Tourists do not usually hold cameras in their hands until they reach a place where they know they are going to take a photograph, and many people keep cameras safely secured inside backpacks. Many seconds may elapse before the average tourist is able to remove a backpack, fish a 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 desire or ability 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 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. Encountering a bear or mountain lion in a remote area 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 or her safety. The observer does not think about taking pictures at that moment, even if he or she has a camera in hand. This physiologically derived response can be likened to the "Drive-by Shooting Effect."
Drive-by shootings were a nightly occurrence in Los Angeles during the 1980s and early 1990s. Dozens of people were killed each year. There were, collectively, hundreds of witnesses to these incidents.
There is only one piece of video footage documenting an actual drive-by shooting. This astounding fact appears to defy superficial logic, considering that Los Angeles is one of the media capitals of the world. Many Angelenos own cameras and try to make a buck with them.
The one piece of footage was obtained by a free-lance TV crew. The crew was taking a break between stories and testing its gear in a dark downtown neighborhood when the incident quickly unfolded in front of them. The crew dove for the floor of the van while the camera continued rolling.
They got the footage, but it happened unintentionally. The camera happened to be sitting on a tripod, with tape rolling, and pointed in the direction of the gas station where the shooting happened.
If the crew had somehow gotten advance warning that a shooting was going to occur, the camera would not have been sitting on a tripod outside the vehicle. It would have been on a camerman's shoulder. He would have likely taken cover when the shooting started, and he would have missed getting footage of the shooting.
An unexpected sense of extreme danger will interfere with any mission or desire to take pictures or shoot video.
For a sasquatch to be an easy target for casual photographers, it would have to wander repeatedly into the open, in daylight, and in predictable places frequented by humans. But sighting patterns indicate that sasquatches prefer to remain in thick forests, venturing out only after nightfall.
Because viewing opportunities are exceedingly rare to begin with, especially in daylight, the odds of a random person photographing a sasquatch during the daytime are almost negligible.
The odds of a "sasquatch photographer" have to be analyzed differently.
A person dedicated to the goal of photographing a sasquatch is likely to be more mentally prepared to handle the surprise of an encounter and has undoubtedly played out possible scenarios many times over. The photographer knows the sasquatch may dash off quickly, so the camera is more handy for a fleeting opportunity. Even with the given advantages, a sasquatch photographer must still overcome special challenges.
Before addressing some of these special challenges, it is important to note that very few experienced photographers intent on documenting a sasquatch actually get into the field on a regular basis.
Many skeptics assume there must be hundreds, or at least dozens, of active bigfoot hunters in the field at any given time. In reality, only a dozen or so investigators get into the field consistently for at least a few days each month. Nearly every equipped "bigfoot hunter" has a day job, or a family, or both. So they are rarely able to remain in the field for more than a few days at a time.
The present quantity of wildlife photographers who are employed full time for the purpose of obtaining sasquatch footage/photos:
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 photographs, film, or video footage of these specific animals.
Production companies that do produce programs dealing with sasquatches typically focus their attention on sasquatch researchers and witnesses, rather than trying to get original footage of these animals.
Part of the problem is that production companies do not have the luxury of planning for long-term projects with uncertain odds of success. It is much more financially feasible to spend a few days or weeks tagging along with folks who call themselves bigfoot researchers, and interviewing them, and asking cliche questions, and showing stock footage.
One practical long term plan for a sasquatch photographer would be to analyze geographical patterns of sighting reports and pinpoint promising areas to patrol on horseback, at least a few times each year for several days at a time.
Would-be sasquatch photographers almost never have the time or resources to conduct those kinds of repeated, extended, horsepacking trips. In fact, the last people who actually did this over the course of a few years were Roger Patterson and Bob Gimlin. They were able to approach the photography challenge from this angle because their jobs were seasonal. They were also experienced backwoods hunters, and they had access to specially-trained trail horses.
Patterson and Gimlin also had a decent communications network (by 1960's standards) in the northwest that enabled them to stay abreast of the most recent sightings and track finds in the region.
In 1967 sasquatch tracks started turning up along logging roads that were being constructed in a remote part of Northern California called Bluff Creek. Patterson and Gimlin got wind of the track finds and set out on horseback to explore the area. They scouted for days throughout the vast watershed. On horseback they could travel long distances and easily scout areas that were rarely visited by humans.
By a fortuitous twist of fate, the winding canyon bottom of Bluff Creek was quite open in late 1967. A major storm had caused massive flooding earlier that year. The brushy creek bed had been transformed into sand bars, mud flats, and piles of logs and other flood debris.
The stream continued running down the middle of the devastated canyon bottom, fully exposed to view. For months after the floods, animals had to venture out into the open, and cross the mud flats and sand bars, to get to the stream to drink. This rare circumstance allowed Roger Patterson to film the sasquatch as it retreated from the stream back to the tree line.
The Patterson footage site now looks very different. Trees and brush have grown back with a vengeance. Today Patterson and Gimlin would not have spotted the figure from where they first spotted it in 1967, nor would they have the unobstructed view they had as the animal retreated.
There were other unique circumstances in the 1960's and 1970's that contributed to the rise in sightings and track finds across North America during that period, particularly the construction of new logging roads into remote mountainous areas.
Patterson and Gimlin themselves were the product of a western cowboy culture that could endure for weeks on horseback in the mountains. They were the type of guys would be unphased by a surprise confrontation with an animal -- unphased even if a panicked horse suddenly fell back on top of one of them and pinned him to the ground.
Patterson was also mentally and physically prepared like a western quick draw gun fighter, to whip out a movie camera from a saddle bag in order to document a fleeting encounter.
No one has matched Patterson and Gimlin’s feat since then -- in terms of the footage obtained, or in terms of the long-term deep-reach effort required to obtain that footage.
The unique hindrances to obtaining daylight footage of these animals stems mainly from their elusive lifestyles and behaviors.
Almost any other type of terrestrial animal is easier to locate and photograph than sasquatches, not merely because there are larger numbers of every other type of large mammal.
Sasquatches are somewhat nomadic and mainly nocturnal. Their food requirements may force them to move from place to place on a frequent basis, and in unpredictable patterns, within a very large home range.
Elusive predators such as wolves, cougars and bears have more predictable territories and circuits, making it much easier to trap or shoot them.
Captive animals can be relocated to settings designed with the needs of the wildlife image market in mind. As a prominent wildlife photographer related, "An animal such as a cougar is virtually never photographed in the wild unless it is hounded by dogs first. All of the images on calendars, in magazines and books are taken in captivity - even if they don't look like it. There is a whole industry around the photography of difficult predators. Photo tours to game farms such as the Triple D in Montana are big business and a reliable resource for documentary film makers."
These facilities, offering expansive natural-looking settings, make it very easy for filmmakers to locate their subject. They create the impression that the animal has been skillfully tracked and carefully approached among wild habitat. Much of wildlife videography is "staged" in this way.
The nocturnal habits of sasquatches create special challenges. Sasquatches retreat quickly from bright illumination in the woods at night, as if bright lights in the darkness are painful to their eyes.
The deterrent effect of bright lights makes the photography effort much more costly, because special equipment is required. Camera-grade 3rd-generation night vision scopes, and thermal cameras allow photographers to film from a distance in the dark, but those devices cost thousands of dollars, putting them well out of reach from most photographers.
With more sighting reports becoming available to the public via the Internet, and with unmanned trail cameras becoming more affordable, new people will undoubtedly try to obtain trail camera photos in areas with a history of sightings.
The emergence and dispersion of high-output "true infrared" motion-sensing trail cameras (such as the Reconyx RC60-HO) will inevitably lead to some unprecedented images of sasquatches. These particular devices will allow professional and non-professional photographers to overcome most of the limitations inherent with hand-held devices, in the context of this unique pursuit.