In wildlife photography there are two traits that are very beneficial to ones success. A wildlife photographer often benefits from having patience. It is often necessary to sit and wait for long periods of time for your subject to happen upon your location or you may have to wait for a bird you inadvertently startled to get used to your presence and come back. It i also important to persevere. One may have to endure some rough weather and uncomfortable conditions to get the desired shot but if you want the shot that is what needs to be done.
Recently I was lucky enough to benefit from both of those traits in my own photography. I Will admit that I am not the most patient man by a long shot. Perseverance is a little bit more up my alley, but I am also working on that as well.
This past weekend I headed down to the river looking to photograph some birds of prey. I was fortunate enough to spot an osprey flying my way. It took refuge in one of the nearby trees. I knew it approximate location but there were several trees clustered together and I was not sure exactly which tree the osprey was in. I looked at them from every angle and location and still no sign of it. I was about to give up thinking that maybe it did not land there and it flew off without me seeing it. Then I heard a screech and it took flight again. This time only moving down the row of trees and perching again in another tree. This time I was not as sure as to where it was, but I knew it was in one of these trees. I moved along slowly and quietly trying not to disturb the bird as much as possible. From a distance I finally saw it and just as I raised my camera to take a shot it was off again. This time it flew off down the river.
I decided to hang out at the river and see if it would come back or if anything else would happen by. With my luck it started to rain. Lucky for me I was near all those trees. I took shelter below the trees and continued to look for photographic opportunities. Eventually I saw the osprey come back up river. I tracked it with my camera as it flew over the river, waiting for the shot. Some branches blocked my shot just as I depressed the shutter and my camera refocused on the branches I recovered and found the osprey just in time to see it plunge into the water. But I had missed the shot. The osprey missed its shot as well. It took off with no fish for lunch. It continued farther up river, but I could see it off in the distance the entire time. I stayed in the shelter of the trees moving around a little trying to stay out of the rain as much as possible. Checking on the osprey from time to time just hoping for one more shot.
Then the osprey began flying back in my direction. It was flying directly over the trees this time instead of over the water. I think it was planning to land in the trees again. However, it did not anticipate my presence. As it swooped down into a clearing between the trees to take up a perch in the next tree it saw me. It immediately veered off course and flew away. This time I got the shots as the osprey flew directly over my head. But it took a lot of hard work and dedication. I got a little wet and was a little bored at times, but my patience and perseverance paid off. Hopefully this situation will reinforce those traits in me.
Yesterday was quite a frustrating photographic venture. When you set out to take photographs you are bound to miss a great shot every now and then. Yesterday it felt like I missed every great photo op. I went to the lake and walked around this little path that passed between the lake and a pond. It was pretty overgrown which made it difficult to see anything much around me until I was right up on it. So I knew I was going to have to react fast to anything I saw. Even knowing this and being prepared did not help me. I stumbled upon a pair of bittern along the lake shore and scared them off without getting a single shot. Twice a belted kingfisher landed on a tree branch not more than ten feet away directly in front of me and in perfect position but saw me and took off before I could get a shot. A green heron was wondering around the pond area but kept taking flight before I even saw it. There were numerous small birds flitting around of which I missed many shots. So it was quite a frustrating day. I would love to be able to chalk it up to equipment failure or miss fire, which I think it may have been on a few occasions, but for the most part it was likely operator error. I simply was not on top of my game. I was not quiet enough, patient enough, or fast enough to get the shots I was presented with. It is a learning experience every time I go out into the field. I did get some nice shots but also missed some possibly remarkable ones. So in circumstances where I fail more than I succeed I try to at least bring away a bit of learning and new knowledge. And even though I missed the photos I still was privileged to be able to go out and see these amazing animals up close and witness their behavior.
Sorry that there has been such a long delay since my last post. Many things that came up that kept me away. One of whcih was a very good thing. I completed and submitted my first article and photography for publication in a magazine. My work will be published in a regional NY magazine, Life in the Finger Lakes. THis is a magazine that I have enjoyed reading freequently so if you have the opportunity to pick one up please do. Not just so that you can see my work but so you can see all of the other great articles and photography that appear in this magazine. I have been out taking many more photographs lately and I think I have a lot more great images to share and hopefully find publications for them as well. I am hoping to work with Life in the Finger Lakes magazine more in the future. This is the second item I have worked with them on. I also had an articlepublished in their e-newsleter and on their website.
I frequently visit the same locations over and over again. I also frequently visit these same sites at the same time of the day repeatedly. Taking this into account it is amazing that I also am able to see a wide variety of wildlife at these sites even though I am always at the same place at the same time. When I go to these repeated locations I often find that some of the same animals are always there. I visit a stream near were I work every workday on my lunch which is at almost the same time every day. There are always mallard ducks and grackles congregating in different areas around the stream. I frequently take time to photograph some of these specimens. Even though they are always around they may be displaying different behaviors each time I am there. Every so often I am treated to a photographic treat. I will be walking along the stream and I will see something that I do not usualy see or have ever seen here. Today down at the stream was one such day. I was fortunate enough to be walking by as a female hooded merganser was swimming up the stream with her chicks. I had only seen hooded mergansers once or twice in my life so I was quite surprised to see them in this location right in the middle of town. The chicks were already pretty good sized and some of them were diving under the water and catching food. It was a nice surprise and I was able to sit and watch them and photograph them for most of my lunch break. I have not checked the photos yet, but I think I got at least a few excelent shots.
This past weekend was quite a fortunate one for me. I had a great time. I was able to get out in nature and enjoy myself quite a bit. I was able to experience nature first hand both at home and at local nature sites. It was a great time as a nature lover, birder, and photographer. I went hiking two days during the weekend. The first day I went hiking I was able to see a pair of yellow bellied sapsucker at their nest cavity. I was actually able to see the male emerge from the hole and land on a nearby tree. This was a first for me as I had never before seen a woodpecker at an active nest cavity. I could not tell if there were young inside. I did not hear anything to indicate there was and the adults were not bringing food to the cavity. I was able to watch them flit around amongst the nearby trees. It was quite an experience for me. This also resulted in me being able to get the best photographs to date of yellow bellied sapsuckers that I have ever been able to take. I look forward to visiting that spot again. That same day at home I noticed a pair of Baltimore orioles flying around our yard. After watching them for a while I determined that they kept returning to the same place over and over. I walked over to where they were going and discovered that they are building a nest high up in one of our aspen trees. This is the first active nest of Baltimore orioles I have ever seen. It will be nice to have a nest close by to observe over time. I was also able to get some nice shots of the orioles.
The second day I went hiking I did not see the woodpeckers, but I was treated to some other surprises. The hike was mostly uneventful but enjoyable. Towards the end of the hike I spotted some deer moving off in the woods and I stopped to photograph them and I was able to see that they were young bucks just beginning to grow antlers. I had never before seen bucks with antlers at any stage in person. so I snapped a few shots as they moved off mostly for documentary purposes. At the very beginning of my hike I had also sighted a deer out in a field which I took a few photos of. Upon reviewing the photos later I discovered that it too was a young buck just beginning to grow antlers. Upon reaching the meadow at the end of my hike it was evident that the song birds were active. There were several Baltimore orioles flying about in pairs and males chasing other males. I was able to approach them slowly and get close to the area they were flying around in. Eventually a female Baltimore oriole landed on a branch of a bush right in front of me. I was able to create some very nice images from that occurrence. It was the first time I had been able to photograph a female Baltimore oriole.
After my hike I decided I wanted to check out a local park to see if there were any ducklings there. There were no ducklings. I was pleasantly surprised to see a red fox however. I rarely see them. I even snapped a few photos of it. Then as I walked further into the park I was able to see a European starling feeding its young and watch and photograph the process. As I was leaving the park I saw another small bird flitting about. It looked like a bird I had never seen before, so I patiently waited for it to come close enough to photograph it. When it finally came to a good spot I began firing away. Taking shot after shot. Following its movements as it flew around. Once I was able to see it closer I was able to identify it as an American redstart. Another first.
Later that same day out in my yard, just doing some random yard work I was also fortunate to spot some birds. Ever since hanging up a peanut feeder several weeks ago we have had a red breasted woodpecker that frequently visits. I had not to this point been able to get close enough to get any really high quality photos. I heard the woodpeckers call in the distance. Then I spotted it in a nearby tree. I quietly sat down in my chair and got ready with my camera, as I had learned the bird would approach even if I was present as long as I was still. The woodpecker flew right over to the tree where the feeder was located and eventually landed in the perfect spot for me to photograph it from where I was sitting. I was able to get the best photographs to date of a red breasted woodpecker. As I was photographing the woodpecker I saw a quick flash of red. I assumed it was a cardinal but I checked anyway. When I looked I saw that it was a scarlet tanager. This is the first time I had ever saw one. It stayed just long enough for me to get some good images of it.
I just saw a nice photo of a person holding a hawk durring study that was being conducted. It reminded me how amazing it is to be able to have direct involvement with wild animals. Anyone who has had the oportunity to work with wild animals through scientific studies or other contact knows what I mean. I recently had the oportunity to rescue a sharp shinned hawk from a place it had gotten stuck. I was able to hold it and get it un stuck. Then it sat perched on my hand for a few moments before it took off and flew out into the night. It was one of the most memerable experiences of my life and I will never forget it. Has anyone had a similar experience.
Looks like today will be a good day to make progress on the “work” of photography. At least that is how I have come to think of it because that is how it has been explained by other professional photographers like Moose Peterson. The “work” of photography is all the stuff you have to do other than actually taking the photographs in order to make your business run. This means contacting editors, organizing images, sending mailings, and all of that other fun stuff. Days where weather or other circumstances do not permit us to be out in the field or actively shooting are good times to get caught up or even ahead on those other business aspects of being a photographer.