A Hooded Merganser devouring a white fish.
The politics of fishing rights for herons
Running starts by a Trumpeter Swan and an American Coot
It started disappointing.....
What eagles do best.....
A fortunate encounter with a deer.
“Fresh Sashimi” or “Journey’s End” or “A New Beginning”
It was a beautiful early morning on April 6, 2012. I was on my way to Cottonwood Park in Prince George in my car. On the passenger seat rested my brand-new Pentax K5 DSLR. If there would be a “new camera smell” it would still be noticeable. After all it had just arrived the day before. Attached to it was my 50 – 500 mm lens I had purchased the year before after agonizing over it for some time. What a journey it had been.
My first camera purchase had been a Rollei 35 S, a compact camera, which used 35 mm film. It didn’t take up much space and I took it with me practically everywhere and the 35 mm lens delivered sharp, crisp photos. With the built-in light meter, one had to only adjust the aperture and line up two markings and the shutter speed was set. But there was only one shortcoming: There were no interchangeable lenses available.
Eventually I had to move up and my choice of camera was the Pentax ME Super. It was way more advanced than the Rollei. I just had to set the parameters and the camera did its thing. Once I paired it with a 70 – 200 mm lens and a motor drive, which shot 3-1/2 fps I now could concentrate on taking photos instead of constantly adjusting the settings manually. The only drawback was that even a 36 exposure roll of film didn’t last very long and one had to pay for the development of the film and the prints. I lost this camera to a burglar while I was out of town. May he rot in hell!
The replacement camera was not very much fun, and the new lenses were cumbersome. All this happened at a time when photography was about to change from film to digital, and it didn’t take me very long to purchase a “do-it-all” camera. It took movies and still photos with a resolution of 640 x 480 pixels, the size of a standard computer screen of the day. And, of course, the big still cameras I really wanted were out of my reach and memory cards were sinfully expensive. Oh, had I just known.
After struggling several years with at best mediocre photos I had noticed that cameras had come down in price, and my next purchase was a 5000 Mp camera. What a change in photo quality! But the camera was slow and cumbersome to use. I moved up and purchased a 10 Mp camera, my first Pentax in a while. After some soul searching, I paired it with a 50 – 500 mm lens and I was set, or so I thought. The picture quality still wasn’t there. Had I made a gigantic, expensive mistake?
While doing research to salvage what I had I came across a side-by-side test by one of the more reputable photography magazines. It compared the Pentax K5 with their Nikon and Canon equivalents. The test was divided into several categories and points were awarded for each category. The K5 didn’t win one category outright, but after the scores were tallied the K5 emerged triumphant as the undisputed winner. I didn’t hesitate anymore and ordered the K5 sight unseen. It arrived one week later with all the bells and whistles I had ordered along with it. And that’s how it ended up on the passenger seat.
I arrived at Cottonwood Park after the usual five-minute drive. As I got out of the car, I heard a big splash. I rushed over to the shoreline only to find a hooded merganser wrestling a whitefish into submission. It was all over in roughly one minute, 55 frames, but the photos were sharp and crisp, and for the first time in a long time I was happy with a camera since the time my ME Super was taken from me.
Since that time technology has improved vastly and several more generations of cameras have come and gone. I purchased some of them, but not all of them. Unfortunately, the K5 that started it all is no longer with me. I lost it along with a lens I had won in a photo contest when my kayak overturned on the Willow River near Prince George, and there it rests on the bottom for eternity. Being a firm believer in keeping your camera at the ready at all times came to haunt me that day, but it also afforded me the opportunities to get some great shots while paddling the Bowron Lakes chain while my friend’s camera was packed away safely in a waterproof container in the bottom of his kayak. I shared my photos of course
Blue Heron Early Morning Fight
The hull of my kayak sliced quietly through the waters of the Georgia Bay near Union Bay, one of the small hamlets which line the coast of Vancouver Island. It was still early and my camera, strapped to the front of the cockpit was ready for any action. It had been my intent to paddle to Tree Island, a small patch of land at the tip of Denman Island and only three km away from the Union Bay Marina. As I rounded the corner and turned toward my destination, I noticed a couple Great Blue Herons fishing along the shoreline. “Great” I thought to myself, “where are they (the birds) when I walk along the shore? Out here and exposed as I am I will never get a good shot of them.”
I kept paddling casually parallel to the beach, keeping my distance from the herons. Much to my surprise they paid no attention to me as I approached from the water. As I got closer, I noticed that the one closest to me had started to posture and his friend had done so in kind. There was no time to waste. With a few powerful paddle strokes, I moved myself into a favourable position, grabbed the camera and waited for the action to start. I didn’t have to wait long. The two parties were closing in on each other, trying to make themselves look big. As they got close, they both waded onto the gravelly shore, one behind the other. The heron who was in second position pressed a surprise attack and the air filled with the loud ahhk-ahhk sound herons make. The bird which had been attacked but held the high ground took evasive action. Again, the attacker pressed his attack to no avail. And now the other heron turned the table on him and pressed its attack from the high ground. Realising that he could not win this fight the original attacker took flight and retreated to a safe distance away. The herons kept posturing for a little while and then went back to fishing. I on the other hand had a camera full of action shots.
I never made it to Tree Island that day.
The Principle of Flight
A general explanation of flight would be that the difference of airflow over a wing and the airflow under a wing is powerful enough to create lift. There is also the principle that the ground effects at ground level help to create lift. And then there is the principle where the potential energy of height can be traded for speed and create lift in that fashion. Birds will use a combination of all three to get airborne. The following photo gallery contains several motion studies on how different birds achieve flight.
Trumpeter Swans an American Coots rely on a running start to achieve the required air speed to attain flight. Their large feet combined with the flapping of their wings give enough resistance to the water, so they won’t sink and propel them forward at the same time until they are airborne. They are obviously great flyers who travel great distances during the spring and fall migrations.
An Outing Remembered
The weather forecast was calling for showers and intermittent periods of rain, not the things one wants to hear if you are planning a photographic outing. But, for the moment the weather seemed to hold, and I decided to take a chance. I readied all my gear, mounted the camera with my long lens to the monopod and pulled out of the driveway. I had been to the area where I planned to go just a short while earlier on a sales call to one of my customers, a sawmill out in the boonies with my day job. It was a Saturday morning and there would no logging trucks on the road because the sawmill was closed on weekends. As I drove west on the highway out of town it started to rain lightly, which didn’t make me very happy. I turned off the highway at the appointed intersection and drove the winding secondary paved road down to the sawmill. So far, I had seen Butkus. Nothing. Zippo.
I decided despite the weather to stick to my initial plan and turned onto the forest road. It meandered uphill and downhill through the landscape. I stopped on occasion to take photos of the wild rose bushes and their flowers along the road, until I ended up further down the highway from which I had started from. I admitted to myself that this whole trip so far had been a waste of my time and turned east to head home. This happens sometimes, but I was somewhat disappointed. Then, right out of the blue things started to happen.
A coyote crossed the highway just ahead of me and I sprang into action. A glance in the rear-view mirror told me that it was safe to pull over while at the same time putting the manual transmission into neutral. Once stopped I applied the parking brake, grabbed the camera-monopod combination like I had done so many times before and crossed the highway in pursuit of the coyote. The road was built along a side slope, and when I reached the opposite side, I saw my furry friend and started shooting. Then another coyote, a female appeared out of nowhere. They seemed to confer with each other and while the male tried to distract me the female disappeared in some bushes, only to reappear a short while later. I guess she must have been looking in on a litter of young ones, because her teats were full. The male met up with its partner and together they left the scene. There was nothing to see here anymore, so I went back to my car and was back on my way a short while later.
I knew a spot where eagles were hanging out, which was only a small detour and I decided to check up on them. I turned off the main highway. As I followed the winding road, I noticed some movement on one of the side roads. It was a fox which had attracted my attention. I stopped the car immediately, rolled down the window and grabbed my camera, but the monopod was in the way. I struggled to remove the monopod from the camera which seemed like an eternity. Eventually the camera came free, and I started shooting. A second fox appeared, and they started chasing each other toward me, mock fighting in the process. The “money shot” happened when they seemed to be shaking paws with each other. Shortly thereafter they spotted me in the car and couldn’t get of the road fast enough, disappearing into some thick brush. I was elated. This was two for two!
I put the car in gear and drove on to check up on the eagles. I was not to be disappointed. One of them sat on their favourite perch on an old rotten tree, the rain had stopped, and I walked carefully toward the eagle as not to spook it. I spent quite some time shooting it sitting on the branch when suddenly it started whistling nervously, followed by a crouch, then a leap into the air, followed by a cloak and a power stroke. Then I lost it in the view finder. The monopod had prevented me from moving the camera with the fast-moving bird. I reacquired it finally again in the view finder as it soared in the sky. Then it flew away and was gone. I called it three for three and returned home with a big smile om my face. The day had turned out pretty good after all. This is the trip I always remember when things are not going so great at times.
As for the monopod, I still use it, but I never have it attached to the camera full time anymore.
It had been a phenomenal grizzly tour, but the highlight of the trip came closer to the end. As we were closing in to our terminal destination we spotted some eagles fishing. As it turned out a bait ball of herring had formed and the eagles were skimming the fish right of the surface. this series depicts the most successful attempt.
Serial photography happens often when one least expects it. This story is a prime example for it. I had left town at 4:00am to be on time for an appointment for a sales call at 7:00am. Road construction is like that sometimes. My trusty camera with the big lens was sitting on the passenger seat. It was a glorious midsummer morning as I drove through this known wildlife corridor along the highway. It was getting light and so far, I was doing quite good. I had taken photographs of a black bear trying to climb a rather large cedar.
I had already written off the golden hour when I spotted a massive white tail buck by the side of the road in the deep grass. I stopped and started shooting. At first, he didn’t pay any attention to me, but when he did, he modelled his rack for me by turning his head back and forth. Then he decided that he wanted to take cover in the thick forest and was gone, but I will always remember the modelling job this buck did for me.