Photo of the Day #18: Amphicyon stalking its prey


Yesterday my friend Julia commented that one of the best times to visit a museum is in the late afternoon during the winter, and these two photographs will give you some idea why. While the fourth floor of the AMNH is usually bathed in natural lighting during most of the day and artificial lighting from above during the evening, there’s a few minutes during the winter months while the sun is getting low in the sky but the overhead illumination hasn’t come on yet, a time when shadows sweep across the ancient bones. These two photographs of the “Bear Dog” Amphicyon were taken during that short interval, and they are among my favorite pictures I’ve been able to shoot at the museum. Perhaps I’m appealing a bit much to the imagination, but the top photograph gives me the impression that I captured the picture as it was trying to sneak up on me, but then again the pose makes sense as the carnivore was reconstructed chasing a pronghorn antelope Ramoceros off camera.


I’m sure that I have mentioned this before (and I probably will again), but my fondest museum memories aren’t from brightly-lit galleries but of dim, almost gloomy fossil halls where everything took on a bit of mystery. My first encounters with “Brontosaurus” in the now long-gone Hall of Early Dinosaurs during the 1980’s left a great impression on me, and although I’m sure others have different aesthetic preferences I feel that skeletons “come to life” in environments of dark and shadow more than when they are under direct illumination. Either way, I am somewhat glad that I don’t have to worry about bumping into Amphicyon these days (as much as I would have liked to see one in life), as I have no doubts that it was one of the fiercest predators of its time.

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