16 June 2010

Walking on Water

I have to admit that every once in a while I just get lucky. The following photograph of a pair of dancing western grebes is one of those situations. I was photographing waterfowl on a small lake in northern Idaho from my floating blind, when I noticed a single grebe off in the distance. Since I did not have many good images of this species I started to slowly work my way towards this bird. As I began to get closer, the bird started to call, worried that perhaps I was causing it stress I stopped, and continued to watch the bird through the peephole in my blind. Then I noticed a second grebe swimming into view from behind some reeds. The two birds slowly swam toward each other and then suddenly, without any preamble, the pair rose up and began rushing across the water in their courtship dance. Purely as a reflex I dove behind my camera and swung the floating blind and camera toward the pair, as I swung around I simultaneously opened the lens aperture up to f4 (knowing that I would need as much shutter speed as I could get to stop the action). As soon as the birds appeared in my viewfinder I held down the shutter button letting the motor-drive fire 8 frames per second while the birds rushed across the water. The whole thing lasted maybe five seconds from beginning to end.  I couldn’t believe my luck, I had always wanted to see this courtship display, and to witness it from my floating blind, right at the bird’s eye-level, what an incredible treat. My hands were shaking with adrenaline as I nervously checked the back of the camera to see if I had gotten anything usable. To say that I was overjoyed to see that I had a few good frames would be an understatement.