• April 27, 2015

My Assistant Is My Baby—A Photographer Redefines Family Time

Drew Rush

As a photographer using remote cameras, you tend to travel heavy. Cases and cases of equipment add up—as do their contents. Bolts, batteries, camera mounts, camera bodies, lenses—you name it. And it seems it all has to be loaded and unloaded multiple times just to get one usable frame.

At the beginning of a National Geographic magazine assignment to photograph grizzly bears and mountain lions in northwestern Wyoming, my wife, Mandy, and I had our first baby. Talk about adding a lot of equipment to the kit.

But working close to home allowed me to get my daughter out in the field from a very young age.

Picture of: Woman posing for camera trap
Drew Rush’s wife, Mandy, and baby daughter, Senna, pretend to be a cougar so Rush can test his camera-trap setup.
Picture of a cougar
The camera trap is later triggered by a cougar in the Greater Yellowstone ecosystem, in Wyoming’s Wind River range.

As a first-time dad, I remember being scared to death about the future—as I’m sure many new parents are. But, interestingly enough, every time I bring my wife and daughter into the field with me I stop worrying. I seem to be more in the moment—looking for things I can show Senna to teach her about the places we go.

Trying to seize the opportunity, we’ve been camping in the Wind River range looking for cougars. We wait out snowstorms in the Beartooth Mountains looking for pika and stomping through the subalpine scouting for grizzlies. And let me tell you, there’s no better stand-in for a grizzly bear than your baby daughter as she sits and stares back at your camera trap giggling, and the rest of the team stands behind you trying to make her laugh.

Picture of a baby in the woods
Senna Rush is used as a stand-in for a grizzly bear while her father, photographer Drew Rush, tests his camera trap.
Picture of a grizzly bear.
A grizzly bear is captured by Rush’s camera trap in Wyoming’s Beartooth Mountains.

Sure, we accommodate for safety concerns. Terrain, wild animals, and other potential dangers dominate the conversation of whether my trips will be alone or with family. But when we are all together, I find there may be no better way to slow down, look around, and really take in the surroundings.

For me, I would think of it as a lost opportunity if my family couldn’t look back and say we had a chance to share these experiences. Some of my best memories from childhood are of packing the car for a quick weekend trip to the mountains with my dad. I could never have imagined that it would come full circle like this.

When I grew up, any time inside was most likely spent looking out. I was always wondering what was out there—always ready for the next trip into the wild. Funny now that I can see those same tendencies in my daughter, who, as she’s learning to walk, only wants to be outdoors—slowly toddling off to see what’s around the next corner or under the next leaf.

Picture of Drew Rush with his family in Wyoming
Photographer Drew Rush works in Wyoming with his wife, Mandy, and baby daughter, Senna.

I think that’s also what drives a successful camera-trap operation. Knowing that the perfect site is out there continually drives you to keep going, trying to find that next spot. I never thought I would find such inspiration in my daughter, whose inherent curiosity drives me to keep looking for the next camera setup.

Now, I just hope that next location is big enough to accommodate changing a diaper or playing in the dirt—if I’m lucky enough to have my family along.

Drew Rush is a recent National Geographic Expeditions Council grantee. Follow him on his website and on Instagram.

Also, check out his Proof post “Looking for Hungry Grizzlies on Purpose.”


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There are 17 Comments. Add Yours.

  1. Kwalu
    May 7, 2015

    Awesome..!. nature is best

  2. Betsy Dreher
    May 4, 2015


  3. Betsy Stevenson
    May 4, 2015

    Long overdue blog with an interesting twist as to how these awesome images come into our lives and the balance between family and photography! Congratulations!

  4. Isabel Hernández Tibau
    May 2, 2015

    Drew Rush!!! sí que eres valiete! cómo te animaste a esa aventura tan riesgosa con esa hija hermosa tan bebé! Pero bueno, por la sonrisa de su carita se ve que lo está disfrutando mucho! Creo que va a ser una fotógrafa aventurera comonsunpapa… y su abuelo! Les deseo que guarden esta maravillosa aventura para que en el futuro la recuerden con risas! Para tí Drew, para tu esposa Maandy y tu hijita Seena, mi agradecimientonpr compatir este momenton de sus vidad. Con afecto desde Montevideo, Uruguay, Isabel

  5. Victoria
    April 28, 2015

    That’s cute

  6. Ron Rohrbach
    April 28, 2015

    Drew, you Family gave you a great blue print to follow. It warms my heart to see the pattern continue. Keep up the tradition. I am PROUD to know you….

  7. adrijana
    April 28, 2015

    love the photos but dude… it really IS a cheap way to get publicity. everyone’s gonna gush over the kid and it’s job half-done. The cougar photo takes the cake.

  8. Martin
    April 28, 2015

    Ever wondered if the predators are drawn to the sites by the subtle, remaining smell of helpless human infant? Just sayin’… I know it’s a horrible thought, but it just popped in there.

  9. guillermo,jose,rincon,rios
    April 27, 2015

    YEP,I have 10 sons,5f and 5m..,and 24 grandkids,14f,10m

  10. mario
    April 27, 2015

    que lindo o vosso trabalho adorei obrigado

  11. mohned
    April 27, 2015

    really i like the story and i wish 4 the family the best … take care of ur assistant

  12. Maribel Carranza
    April 27, 2015

    Hermosas fotografias. Me imagino el lado fascinante de descubrir la Naturaleza!

  13. Nicole Bittner
    April 27, 2015

    Living your passion, sharing it with those you love and giving us beautiful shots! You’re living the dream, Drew!

  14. Glenn
    April 27, 2015

    Drew It looks to me someone got it right

  15. Sherry Smith
    April 27, 2015

    Can’t get enough of reading and learning about the lives and passion of NATGEO’s photographers! You’re all heroes in my book!!

  16. Scott
    April 27, 2015

    That’s pretty awesome. Your little one is going to end up growing into a full blown photographer by the age of 8!

  17. Tom
    April 27, 2015

    Great family and great story Drew. What a wonderful assistant!

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