Mother Nature Teaches Patience


Last week I drove and then hiked to a place where I’m trying to make a photograph of a scene that I’ve previsualised.  Everything has to be right: morning sun, no wind, and warm weather.  So far I’ve never seen it like this when I have my good camera with me.

This week it was the wind that let me down—there was some.  Nevertheless, there were some other images that interested me in the area so I settled in to do that photography work.  I was looking out on a small lake when I saw a large bird fly in and land with an enormous splash.  Strange, I thought, for a goose to make so much splash on landing.  Once the spray settled, there in front of me, but some distance away, was a loon.  He or she then started calling and the scene immediately became magical.

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The lone loon (just a dot on the water at this distance)

Even with the highest telephoto lens I have I couldn’t get much a photograph, so I sat down and watched the loon prepare for and then do some fishing.  I’m always amazed how long these birds can stay underwater.  After about fifteen minutes I got busy photographing some other things, but when I turned around five minutes later, there were two loons.  I presumed the partner had arrived.  They were still a long way off and were constantly diving so trying to get a photograph of them was hopeless.

I finished my other photographic interest, put away my equipment, and collapsed my tripod.  I did all this with my back to the lake and when I turned around I was surprised to see five of them and they were a lot closer than before.

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The loon family

You can only see four in this image as the other was a bit of an outlier and away from the group.  I had never seen a pair of mature loons together let alone this raft of loons .  (Evidently that is what a gathering of loons is called, a raft.  I didn’t make it up.)  I guessed that the other birds were the offspring who were had now matured, but not quite ready to leave ‘home’.

I frantically reassembled my tripod, got out my camera and set it all up.  By the time I was ready, the birds had moved down the lake and out of the range of my lens.  I got the image of the raft of them shown here, but they were moving and a long way off.  Furthermore, the light was dismal.  All this was not conducive to good wildlife photography with limited lenses.  The real wildlife photographers travel with long telephoto lenses that have large glass elements for use in lower light.  Those beauties cost a fortune.

What I did learn from this little event was that I have to be willing to wait and wait and wait some more before leaving a place with photographic art potential.  Mother Nature can deliver some incredible scenes, but it will be on her schedule and not mine.  Besides, how bad can it be sitting out in the woods on a warm day taking in the ambience of such beautiful country.