Rule No 1 in wildlife photography-always expect the unexpected (and be forever grateful for it!)
Rule No 2 – Always have your camera at hand. When you don’t you miss stuff that otherwise would have been captured (and forever rue the day!)
Rule No 3 – Don’t screw it up (or you will always regret it!)
So there we were. Sitting quietly on the beach at Fingal Head in northern New South Wales watching big surf break over the rocks and some crazy surfers trying to tame it. We were there because the day before I had photographed some Reef Egrets and never got any good shots of their catch and I wanted to have a second go at photographing the birds fishing the rough surf. I turned and looked up the beach and there, just thirty or forty meters away an Osprey landed on the sand. I couldn’t believe it. Getting good shots of a bird like this is almost impossible, and here was one almost waiting for it’s photo to be taken.
As I slowly approached the bird, not wanting to rush it and scare it away, but also not wanting to miss such a chance, all the was going through my head was to focus and not screw it up!! As I walked I quickly checked the camera settings, ISO etc and then hand holding with the bird square in the center of the view finder slowly walked closer until I had about a 30% full frame. I could have got closer, but I knew the bird would fly at any moment and wanted to make sure I could get all the wings in the frame. For once the light was perfect. Slightly diffused by some high cloud. Perfect. All I had to do was press, which I started to do as I approached.
What the Osprey did next was surprising. It calmly walked down the beach and into the wash of the waves and stood there. It was not feeding and it was not bathing. Just standing in the water, almost as if it was cooling off. And there it stood, small waves washing round it. As it goes with waves, some are bigger. All it did in that case was raise it’s wings. It was enjoying an early morning dip…at least that’s what it seemed it was doing.
Expecting the osprey to fly at any time I just kept putting frames in the camera and consequently have a few hundred almost exactly the same as the ones before. But hey, who cares, in this game more is better than less!!
But the damn lens started getting heavy and I was panting, partially from the effort of holding the kit and partially from being tensed up so as not to screw it up. So I lowered the lens to take a look. Guess what happened….Yup…the bird took off and I missed the mother of all lift off shots!!!! (That’s what happens when you break Rule No 1 and Rule No 3)
But not to worry. It obliged by slowly flying past at eye level about 10m off from where I was standing before circling and flying off low just in front of the breaking surf. Fortunately I’m not too bad at tracking and getting birds in flight, so this part of the show got captured.
Let me tell you. Days with a camera and spectacular raptors in focus don’t get much better than this!