Sunday, October 25, 2015

Rewarding Patience - Behind the Shot

It is often said patience is a virtue - as in a good or useful quality.  Great Blue Heron's exhibit an abundance of patience when fishing for food.  They often stay motionless in one spot until they see something tasty swim by and then will slowly lower their head to just above the water before striking with lightening speed.

I love spotting and watching blue herons but their long periods of motionless appearance can test the patience of this photographer.  I was at this wetland area a couple weeks ago and saw this heron from a distance and was utterly surprised because I thought they had all moved on for the season.  The herons here tend to be skittish and will fly away while I'm still a long way off.

Excited, I forced myself to approach slow, taking my time so as to not spook it into flying off.  I'd regularly stop and raise the camera for some far away shots I knew I'd trash but was hoping this action would play in my favor once I got closer to the bird as it would be acclimated to the motion of raising and lowering the camera as well as hearing the mirror/shutter mechanism.  When I got as close to the bird as I physically could it looked directly at me so I grabbed a quick shot and hoped it wouldn't fly off.

A couple minutes later when it took wing I thought, "Crud, I blew it".  Fortunately, it only moved about 30 feet from where it was and settled down again.  It sounded off a few squawks as I moved relative to it and the sun but once I got where I wanted to be and stood still he seemed to forget about me and went back to the search for food.

And it wasn't just me.  There were other people walking by and riding bikes and dogs barking.  I paid them no attention because to acknowledge them or turn my attention away would be to miss a shot of something happening.  It never fails when watching a blue heron not move for a long time and thinking nothing is going to happen that as soon as I turn my attention to something else he strikes and has fish just like (snap) that. 

Well, that's exactly what happened this time too.  I had ignored people walking by and bikers and joggers and the dogs but couldn't ignore the sound of a particular bird in the trees behind me.  It's not a sound I hear often and it got the better of me.  I'd heard the sound before but just couldn't place it this time so had to know what it was.  I turned and found the woodpecker within a minute.  Crud, that's all?  A woodpecker.

And I missed it.  In that brief moment the blue heron had caught a meal.  The lightening strike was history and with the fish firmly between his bill he flew to the other side of the pond to enjoy his meal in relative peace.

The bird was certainly rewarded for his patience.  Me?  I missed THE shot I was hoping to get but it wasn't a total loss.  I'm convinced my patient approach to the bird allowed shots I would not have gotten, otherwise.  It's one thing to have walkers, bikers, joggers and dogs in the area but they keep moving because they're there for exercise/activity not necessarily nature watching.  I'm there for the nature and photography so I don't keep moving.  It is the stopping and directly observing of nature that spooks many animals to move on even if you're just outside their bubble of comfort.  In other words, they're comfortable as long as you're moving and not stopping and staring.  To be able to stop and observe for an extended period usually entails a different approach and I think I was successful this time.

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