Animals, especially the wild kind, can be difficult at best to photograph unless you have the patience of Job, the wisdom of Solomon, the steady hands of a tattoo artist, and the luck of the Irish. I am Irish, but the rest of the attributes needed for animal photography seem to escape me most days. If it weren’t for the Irish part, I’d probably have no wildlife photographs at all. I’ve previously posted about Photographing Animals, but this post is a little different.
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So, one of my favorite shots is from the Merced Wildlife Reserve in Merced, California. I have many favorites from the reserve, but for some reason this one tickles my fancy.
I visit the Reserve as often as I can which turns out to be maybe once every other month during the migration season. I recently purchased a new super telephoto lens (Tamron 150-600mm) for my Canon 70D that when attached I find difficult to manage – together they weigh a whopping seven pounds. I have to use either a monopod or tripod when using this monster lens. Even when I have my 24-70mm lens on the 70D, the weight of camera and lens (almost five pounds) can still be a problem during a long shoot.
This wet winter proved to be a bumper year for migrating Canadian Snow Geese; thousands of them gathered in the wetlands posing for avid photographers. On this particular day, I was just learning the new lens and spent a number of hours shooting everything in sight. I arrived at the reserve around 7:30am and found nine turkey vultures perched on a fence with wings spread out, sunrise at their backs, thoroughly enjoying the warmth of the sun. So I spent the first 1/2 hour inching closer, talking sweetly to and shooting turkey vultures – not the prettiest of birds. And in fact they made perfect models for a Halloween shot.
As the sun rose higher, I made my way around to the area where the geese ‘hang out’. Glorious flocks of geese flooded the wetlands, turning what was a quiet morning of bird watching into a raucous deluge of honking and talking. Although the bulk of the flock was more than 100 yards away, there were a few that ventured into a closer pond. As I brought the camera to eye, two of the geese were passing each other going in the opposite direction. The luck of the Irish willed out and I was able to get a shot as they passed that looked like they might also be smitten with each other.
I took over 400 shots that day, some at the full 600mm focal length, but many at closer range. I learned a lot about the new lens and was thankful that I had a monopod with me! Trying to hold that sucker without support makes for very difficult handheld shots. Even with the monopod, that heavy of equipment makes for a long day. It would be interesting to see how long I could hold out using lighter equipment – I might never go home!