Beyond The Campfire was created to encourage readers to explore the great outdoors and to observe it close up. Get out and take a hike, go fishing or canoeing, or simply stretch out on a blanket under a summer sky...and take your camera along. We'll talk about combining outdoor activities with photography. We'll look at everything from improving your understanding of the basics of photography to more advanced techniques including things like how to see photographically and capturing the light. We'll explore the night sky, location shoots, using off camera speedlights along with nature and landscape. Grab your camera...strap on your hiking boots...and join me. I think you will enjoy the adventure.

F-4 Phantom

F-4 Phantom
F-4 Phantom

Sunday, January 30, 2011

It's Harder than it Looks

Wildlife photography, I discovered, is much more difficult than one might think.  Not only does it require some specialized equipment, but it requires a great deal of patience and time.  This past year or so I started to explore this type of photography in more depth taking the relatively easy tweety birds at the feeder approach.  I don't know...that just didn't seem adventurous I began to expand my territory and that's when I discovered just how difficult it really was. Often, while I was waiting for something to appear, I kept wondering how the pro's were able to get those great wildlife shots...close up.  It wasn't that I didn't see anything was just that everything I saw was too far away to take effective wildlife photos...even with my relatively large 500mm lens.

I quickly came to the conclusion that luck played a big part of it.  On one such occasion, luck played a big roll in one of the best wildlife shot's I've taken to date.  I arrived one spring day at Shanty Hollow Lake well before sunup and paddled my canoe to the upper end, about three quarters of mile, hoping to catch the sun rising over the lake.  After the initial morning program played out, I tried a little fishing eventually drifting  into one of the many coves found on the north end of the lake.  A green heron flew across the cove and sat down  behind some tangled snarls along the bank.  It was maybe 50 yards away, so I cautiously paddled in that direction hoping to get close enough for some photo's.

Green herons are interesting birds...rather small about the size of a crow...and have the ability to extend their neck out about twice its sitting length to grab a tasty morsel in the shallows.  As I drifted closer to the bank, I grabbed my camera from the dry box.  I couldn't see the heron at first then spotted him behind some cover next to the waters edge.  I was about 15 yards away when I started snapping photo's...but eventually was able to close that distance to about 10 to 12 feet.  I was able to follow the heron from that distance for the better part of a half hour.  Oddly enough, he never seemed too concerned that I was there.  Maybe, he just never thought that any threat would come from the water.

A few of the shots were decent but nothing all that great...then he hopped onto a partially submerged log and walked along its length.  A few feet later he stepped out of the shadows into the sunlight and cast his reflection on the surface.  I fired off a couple of shots before his head and neck extended way out in a quick jab where he managed to snare a minnow.  Unfortunately, he turned away from me and I was unable to get the shot.

I drifted a few feet closer and he raised the hackle on the back of his head, squawked, and off he went.  It wasn't until later after I downloaded the images did I discover just how special the reflection shot turned out.  It's one of the best wildlife images I've taken...only because of a bit of luck and being in the right place at the right time.  I suppose what I learned was that luck is simply being able to take advantage of a good opportunity when it arrives.

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