Wildlife Photography | Subject To Change

Often but not always when I venture out to create photographs I have a subject in mind that I would like to try to capture during my time. In some types of photography the subject will always remain the intended subject. If I plan to photograph a waterfall I show up at the location of the waterfall and I photograph it. The way I photograph it might need to change, that is a discussion for another time, but the subject will still be the intended subject of a waterfall.

In wildlife photography there is always a chance that you will not have the opportunity to photograph your intended subject. And the more specific you are about your intended photography subject the greater the odds that something will transpire to prevent you from capturing your goal image.

Accept the Opportunities You Are Given

wildlife in Upstate New York
The turtle is hiding from my camera

I went to a local park with the intent of photographing osprey. A very specific subject. I arrived at the park and started walking around the small lake where osprey like to fish. As I walked I did not see any osprey and I didn’t see any indication they would arrive at my location soon.

I walked along the lake hoping the osprey would arrive. Instead of seeing osprey I saw two turtles sitting on the shore of the lake. A sight I don’t see very often and I specifically have never seen at this location. As soon as I turned my attention to them one member of the pair slid back into the water. One turtle remained.

This turtle seemed completely relaxed in my presence and allowed me to sit there and photograph it for a good while. I am pretty sure I took more photographs of that turtle in that one session than I ever had previously of any turtle I have photographed. Usually, because the turtles don’t sit around very long and let you watch from close by.

I set out with the goal of photographing osprey. Instead I captured over 500 images of one turtle. Not at all what I expected on this trip and nothing I could have predicted at all.

Take Pleasure in the Variety

Not only did I not have the opportunity to photograph an osprey on this trip I didn’t even see one at all. However, sometimes photographing the same subject over and over, even if it is a subject you love, can bring a certain monotony and stagnation to your photography and creativity. I love photographing osprey. But I have a lot of images of them already and even if I have a lot that are really nice how different are they really?

Instead of investing my energy all on one subject and being happy with that one capture I was able to add some variety to my photography. I photographed the above mentioned turtle and then I continued to walk around the lake. It was then that it became clear that it was duckling and gosling season here at the lake.

I was able to spend a considerable amount of time photographing ducklings and female mallards. I was able to watch and photograph goslings and adult Canada geese.

Not only did I end up photographing a variety of subjects rather than just the one subject I had targeted, but I was able to try to photograph in different ways. Watching an osprey I am generally standing and pointing my camera up and tracking the bird as it soars across the sky. Photographing all these other subjects put me in many different and unusual positions and kept me a bit more on my toes.

Photographing the ducklings was particularly interesting. Most wildlife you can see patterns and get a sense of their movements and behaviors and try to anticipate them.  The ducklings are just all over the place. Watching a raft of ducklings moving through the water is like watching organized chaos. They zig and zag and speed up and randomly dive under the water.

Trying to single out a particular duckling to be the subject of an image is challenging due to the unpredictability. Trying to isolate one duckling in the frame can be an exercise in futility. Even just trying to frame up a group and focus on one as the central subject is a challenge because you never know which way the duck or ducks are going to go. It was a really fun and interesting time.

wildlife photography in Upstate, New York
Mallard ducklings feeding along the lake shore

I tried siting on the shore of the lake and watching them as they swam by, which became a challenge as they hopped out of the water and were suddenly behind me. The ducklings just zoomed and scooted her and there across the grass.

Having a variety of different subjects and positioning my body differently and having to think differently made this an enjoyable experience even without a single sighting of what I had originally went there for. 

I have added a couple of images of the ducklings and the goslings from the park to my Water Fowl Gallery.

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