Wild for Wildlife
PHOTOGRAPHY BY Isaac Spotts
“When I was ten, my granny gave me a tiny digital camera,” says eighteen-year-old Isaac Spotts. At thirteen, he used money from an acting gig—he was Tommy in the Orlando Repertory Theatre’s production of Dr. Dolittle—to buy a Canon Rebel T3 camera. “That was my first decent camera,” he says. When he was sixteen, Spotts’ family moved to Jackson Hole from Orlando. “Back in Florida, I took pictures of animals, but they were in zoos,” he says. “Here it’s totally different. It’s insane.” Last May, Spotts, who graduated from Jackson Hole High School this spring, got a job at Wyoming Camera Outfitters. “My stuff has really improved since I started working there,” he says. “My manager, Travis, and my co-workers have been so helpful.”
Spotts says the patience required to be a wildlife photographer is something he’s always had. “Wildlife photography is an art,” he says. “There is so much you need to learn, and patience is so important. Here, moose stroll through town and you can just drive up to them, but most animals are hard to find and skittish.”
For a series of photos of river otters, Spotts went with a friend to a “pond back in the boonies where he knew otters lived,” he says. “We saw them—and they saw us—from about sixty yards and [then] they disappeared. We just lay down and waited for them to get comfortable with us and come closer. About an hour later they were swimming ten feet from us and catching fish.”
Being on the ground is a key component of Spotts’ style of shooting. “I have to be at an animal’s eye level, or lower,” he says. “It makes the portraits feel more intimate—looking into the eyes of an animal.” Spotts doesn’t have a favorite animal to shoot, but, “after spending a lot of time looking for them last winter,” he saw two wolves in two days. “They are the most beautiful animals in the world,” he says. Spotts saw them while he was driving along the Gros Ventre Road near Kelly. “I was singing along to the radio and this gray wolf was thirty feet from the road staring off into the distance,” he says. “I pulled over and put the window down. It started moving away and then I let out this little howl and it looked at me and howled back. I got some good—but not great—shots, and that moment when it howled back at me was something else.”
While Spotts’ dream is to eventually show his photography in a gallery—maybe even his own—now you can catch his images of local wildlife on Instagram (@isaacspicz).