Leonard Lee Rue III and his student and worthy successor, Leonard Lee Rue IV, have set such a standard in photographing the deer of North America as should make all other wildlife photographers despair.
During lifetimes in the field, the Rues have captured the birth, adolescence, courting, fighting, mating, hiding, sneaking, feeding, oddities, accidents, pain and play of our several species of deer with such immediacy that we come away feeling that we know these animals.
But comes now Kenneth Herrington, whose blacktail-deer studies go on display this weekend on the rotunda balcony of the Museum of Natural History.
They're all pretty pictures of deer. Perhaps a third of the 60 color prints are fine pictures of deer. A few are poster-quality and have been printed poster-size. But Herrington has overreached his grasp in this show, titled: "Black-Tailed Deer: A Life Cycle." He just doesn't have the pictures to justify so sweeping a promise.
While generally well-composed and otherwise technically excellent, most of the photographs have a static, distant quality that betrays the way they were taken: through medium- to super-telephoto lenses on a camera triggered by remote control. By restricting himself to long lenses and high- resolution (and therefore low-speed) color film, Herrington has limited himself to photographs taken during full daylight. Yet deer pursue their most vital and fascinating activities from just before sunset to just after dawn, and usually in the heaviest cover available. To catch them in these moments requires fast lenses, fast film, endless patience and close stalking.
Herrington is a professional (commercial and industrial) photographer, but his wildlife work is only high in the talented-amateur class. BLACK-TAILED DEER: A LIFE CYCLE -- Through February 20 at the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History (closed Christmas Day).