It’s been awhile since I was out shooting, the weather has been miserable and I’ve been holed up inside wishing and hoping and waiting for spring. Had a visit to Las Vegas recently and it probably did more harm than good because coming home to cold and drab put me in a weather funk. However, I had signed on to host a group of photographers out at Frank Lake and after one postponement due to weather it was decided to try it regardless of conditions. With that being the case Sunday was committed to a photo shoot.
True to form the weather conditions were, to put it politely, difficult. Grey skies, biting north wind of about 15 - 20 kph, and intermittent snow. Nevertheless eight photogs arrived for the shoot. (I was looking for an adjective to describe them. Choices being – avid, dedicated, or nuts.) I had also invited a friend, who is a passionate and extremely knowledgeable birder, to join us and share some of his knowledge about the area with the "out of towners" who are not familiar with the Frank Lake area, it’s history and it’s amazing wealth of waterfowl species.
Greg was crazy enough to arrive as promised and spent the day sharing, teaching and guiding our pack of shooters around the hidden secrets of this amazing place. I’ve got my map and hopefully can find my way back to these locations often throughout the spring (if it ever arrives), summer and fall.
|The reeds provide habitat for an immense number of breeding waterfowl - they teem with life|
I have always considered myself a bird lover, song birds especially, it’s easy, put up a feeder in your back yard and watch them from the comfort of your home with a pair of binoculars. There is another kind of bird lover who gets out to where the birds are and learns about their habits and habitat. Oh Lord – have I added another element to my obsession?
I use to see something flying in the distance and ask Rob – ducks or geese? That is kind of like asking of a vehicle on the highway – car or truck? A duck is not just a duck. It might be a Mallard (who doesn’t know them?), but it also might be a Gadwall, or a Wigeon (there are a couple of versions of them – eurasian and american), a Teal (blue-winged or cinnamon), there are Shovelers and Pintails, Canvasbacks and Redheads not to mention Scaups and Scoters, best not miss the Bufflehead, Goldeneye or Mergansers and oops almost forgot the Ruddy Duck. That’s just some of the waterfowl. There are Geese and Swans, Loons and Grebes.
Then there are the shore birds! Oh what have I done, what have I gotten myself into?
|Mallards, Bufflehead and Common Goldeneye|
But enough of my panic attack, back to the topic at hand – Sunday at Frank Lake!
After an informative recap of the history and biology of the area, from the relative comfort of the observation blind, our caravan of vehicles (7 in all) head out on our guided tour. We were treated to the best places to watch and photograph the waterfowl Frank Lake is home to or is a stopping off place to, for the numerous species just passing through to more northerly destinations.
|These American Avocet cooperated by staying relatively close to shore. The better to shoot!|
We were even treated to a side trip to view the nest of a Great Horned Owl. Mrs. Owl was home, seated on her future off-spring but did not look very impressed by our visit. I didn’t get a decent shot of her – I’m still trying to master the focus on my camera and could not achieve a sharp image due to the number of twigs and branches between the nest and me. But I saw her watching us watching her and she was either bored or cross, I'm not sure which.
I did learn some more invaluable lessons on this shoot. The first and foremost being to take more layers of clothing than you think you are going to need. You can always take something off but if you don’t have it you can’t put it on.
I pre-selected my camera settings based on the morning conditions and for the most part they worked out. Slightly higher ISO to make up for the low light. Mid range f stop because when shooting a moving target that would give me a great range of things in focus.
I even made adjustments for certain shots and remembered to set things back to the original when done. While that is not a lesson learned on this shoot it served me well that I learned it previously.
If you leave your tripod in the vehicle – you will wish you had it with you. If you lug your tripod over the rough terrain to the place you plan to shoot from you will have no need of it. Set it up and take a shot anyway – you will feel better.
Thanks to Greg Wagner for sharing his time and expertise with a group of strangers on a Sunday morning that stretched into a Sunday afternoon.
Oh and one other thing – make sure you marry a great guy who not only gets the house ready for the possible arrival of a group of strangers for coffee (that doesn’t happen). But also makes a delicious seafood pasta dinner for you when you do arrive home after a 7 hour absence and head straight for the computer to download your days images. Don’t forget to thank him! Which I did - forget I mean. Hopefully he'll read this post and know how much he is appreciated.
Until next time!