It is no secret that I’m addicted to nature photography, which I practice on an almost daily basis regardless of weather conditions. In fact bad conditions sometime produce some neat images. I love “shooting” sunrises; they usually are the thing that gets me going in the morning. With sunrises, or sunsets, the secret to getting good ones is to be out there before they occur. Sometimes the best sky color is before the sun rises or after it sets, and you need to be in a good position before that happens. After sunrise, I head to a likely wildlife scene.
Lately I have been sitting along the Feeder Road off Route 77 near a marsh where geese and ducks come to rest in the morning. No hunting is allowed on this marsh, so many of the waterfowl naturally pick it for a safe haven. This was my favorite spot last week as I aimed to get good flight shots of geese coming in. Lighting and wind need to be from the right angle, and the birds are fast, so you have to be on the ball. It is very satisfying to catch that goose image, tack sharp, as he cups and drops into the marsh.
I used to do a lot of waterfowl hunting and the incoming geese always seemed to be the most exciting to watch. That’s still true today as I hunt them with my camera. Their distance calling tunes me in to their arrival and even when they are about to take off. I take way too many pictures of them in flight, but that’s necessary to catch the birds’ most flattering positions, which involves how the light is hitting them, their wing positions and their angle to the camera.
One shot I’m always trying to capture is their flying upside-down (yes, you read that right!). Sometimes when a flock is coming in to land they come in from a high altitude and are in a hurry to get to their chosen landing spot. To do this they “slip” sideways as they drop from the sky, and even flip over on their backs, which cuts wind resistance and helps them drop more quickly. Now, this maneuver takes only a split second, and they do it individually, not as a group. Thus it can be very difficult to catch this move. The best way is to just click away as you see birds in the flock doing this and hope you catch one upside-down.
When the birds are ready to leave the marsh, their body positioning and type of call usually prompt me to get ready. I try to catch them both flying and running on the water as they get airborne. Again, it is a matter of taking a lot of shots to catch it just right.
A lot of other things went on as I waited for various groups of geese to arrive. One morning a pair of trumpeter swans flew over me from a side that I don’t eyeball that much, and by the time I saw them I could only get angling-away images, not very flattering to the swans. A few mornings later, now peeking at the southeast side of my position more often, I caught the pair coming towards me. Getting ready, I kept focusing on them as they approached, and hit the “trigger” a number of times as they passed low and right in front of me. Each time I did, the thought “got it” clicked in my mind, and the end result was about six great, tack-sharp, well-exposed and flattering shots. As they continued on their way I took a deep breath — I often hold my breath as I shoot, probably a habit from my long range woodchuck hunting days that gave me a more accurate shot. A quick review of the shots proved I hit the nail right on the head, and my day was made even if the geese and ducks didn’t cooperate.
Other creatures often show themselves while I’m waiting out a particular set up like this. A mink will scramble in front of me, never giving a good shot because it is so quick in its sudden appearance and disappearance. Then there’s the great blue heron that has not flown south yet, offering some close “fishing” poses to me. Although not as plentiful as the incoming geese in this marsh, some mallards, pintails, teal and an occasional wood duck come in, elevating the excitement for me.
When the geese do start arriving there seems to be numerous groups coming in, one after another, which keeps me on the ball and breathless as I concentrate on various groups, trying to pick ones with good background, or doing quick maneuvers and coming in at the right angles.
Nature’s creatures are not the only things that keep me entertained while I’m in this area. The seasonal road is traveled by both vehicles and hikers looking to see nature or photograph it, and sometimes it’s pretty funny watching the wildlife outmaneuver these people. I can often predict what’s going to happen. Someone stops quickly and jumps out of their vehicle, camera in hand for a picture, only to find the creature has disappeared. Or, they walk or drive by never seeing the wildlife right off the road, because they don’t know how to look for it.
Nature photography can be addictive but that is OK because it makes you more appreciative of what’s out there.
I have a list of folks to whom I send my nature images. If you’re interested in seeing what I see, send me your email address and a request and I’ll add you to the list.
Doug Domedion, outdoorsman and nature photographer, resides in Medina. Contact him at 585-798-4022 or [email protected].