Persistence pays off
Long before I bought my current outfit and began trying to photograph birds and other wildlife, I learned from watching nature documentaries that the best photos are usually the product of hours and hours of patient waiting and often hundreds of lousy shots. It’s all too easy to forget that important lesson when you see all the great images shared by other photographers on social media. And since I have a serious problem standing in one spot when I’m outdoors, most of my good photos are a result of good timing and pure luck. I really had the chance to reacquaint myself with the virtues of Patience and Tenacity during my recent Osprey experience at Clear Lake.
I’ve visited the nest at Rodman Slough park in previous years, and on this trip I was eager to see what I could capture with my Sigma 50-600mm zoom. There’s no problem finding the nest; it sits atop a power pole only a few steps from the parking area, so how could you not get a good shot — right? Well, maybe. It helps if you’re not pressed for time and/or impatient. My first attempt was on Wednesday afternoon, after several hours of rain and even a bit of snow. The skies had cleared, but it was still cold. Of course, the ground was muddy from the storm and I’d forgotten to change into my hiking boots. I was also with the Big Guy, who wanted to fish. With all these things preying on my mind, not surprisingly my pictures were less than inspiring.
On my second attempt the following day, again I was in a hurry and my confidence was failing. We were due to leave for home next morning, and all my great photography plans had thus far come to nothing. I did manage a few quick shots of the nest, and they were okay but nothing special. I decided to hike west, up the hill into the trees and out of sight of the nest. To my surprise, I found a second big nest in a tree; I have no idea if it was occupied, but as I approached, a huge bird took off over my head. I wasn’t prepared, and I missed the shot.
Okay, I thought. I’ll be patient and maybe the bird will come back to its nest. I was rewarded after about five minutes when an Osprey alit on the branch right above my head. Except, I didn’t exactly want a photograph of the bird’s backside, and that was all I could see! While I waited for it to offer a better angle, I started to fiddle with my camera settings. Bad idea — the bird turned, looked down at me, and flew away, and I missed the shot a second time.
I decided to wait some more, although as the minutes ticked by I grew increasingly restless. I was standing on a steep, muddy incline. I was afraid to take my eyes off the tree, but it was nearly 5:30 in the afternoon and I still needed to run some errands before returning to our accommodation. At one point I did start down the hill but then raced back up when I thought I heard the Osprey returning. No such luck. Eventually, I threw in the towel and left, feeling thoroughly disgusted with myself.
I had one last chance. The next morning, Friday, I was heading home but decided there was no need to rush. The Osprey was active on the nest and making quite a bit of noise, so I was able to capture her despite the troublesome wires between us.
When she then flew away, heading west, I decided to hurry back up that muddy hill to the site of the second nest — and I finally got some shots I feel really good about!
I don’t know if this little lesson will make me more patient when I’m hiking and looking for wildlife. Maybe I won’t be quite so hard on myself when luck is going against me and I miss those shots that should have been mine. Sometimes, you just have one of those days, and kicking yourself about it doesn’t help one bit!
I did manage one last shot before climbing into my car and starting the long drive home, so I said goodbye to the Osprey until we meet again next year for another round.