A Shot In The Face of Fear – Yep, I PANICKED

That, my friend, is the result of FEAR!

Linda and I were up an agility show in Wisconsin last weekend.  Part of the bribe to actually get me to go with her was the opportunity to head back to the Chain O Lakes Park in Spring Grove.  Well, that and the chance to stop at my favorite chocolate store in Richmond IL.  8+ hours of waiting around to watch my dogs run for a total of about 4 minutes each.  Yes, their chocolate is THAT  good – especially the dark chocolate covered pineapple- yum.  As a shout out to my littlest dog, congratulations to Kerby (and Linda) on making their TACH II Agility Title at the show.

When we made it to the park, we immediately spotted a couple of swans enjoying a swim.  After about 100 shots of them (blog foreshadowing), we packed up and started to head out of the park.  Less than a mile from the exit, I saw something move out of the corner of my eye.  On closer inspection, I still was not able to tell exactly what it was, but it was moving in the weeds and figured I’d just go have a look-see.  Linda double back and dropped me off while she tried to find a place to pull off.  My suspicions were confirmed, it was a Sandhill Crane walking in the fall weed stalks.

It was rather amazing how well it was actually camouflaged among the fall coloring.  Unfortunately, the red on the head allowed me to zero in on it once the movement was vectored.  If you recall, the last encounter with these large birds was from pretty far away on the Yellowstone trip.  Here, the distance was less than 40 feet away giving a better perspective on just how huge these birds are.  Not only was I fortunate to see this feathered beauty….

there was actually TWO of them.  Based by the coloring, it looks like a male and female, but I need to verify that with the field guides.  I was actually struggling to get the shots I wanted.  They were very aware of my presence and continued to walk back and forth and every once in awhile adding some distance.  As they did this, they would pass behind the weed stalks driving my glass autofocus nuts.  Manual focus did not help much either as they refused to stop in one spot for more than a second or two to check out something on the ground or shoot me a glaring eye.  I continued to try and close the distance to help alleviate the focus issue and both the mono and tripods were in the car – mental note, at least grab the mono the next time I rush off into the woods.

So, you are probably wondering about the whole PANIC thing.  Well, it eventually dawned on me that I really did not know anything about these birds I was openly stalking.  Couple that with the fact I was totally alone and nursing a badly torn lower quad so if they had any cheetah friends I was a gonner.   Hit the jump if you want to see what happened.

Apparently, they had enough of my intrusion and proceeded to do something about it…..

This is what was produced when the involuntary muscle twitch hit the shutter button.  By any chance, have you ever seen an owl take off from a perch?  If so, you know EXACTLY what this looked and felt like.  If you have not had that experience, it takes a significant amount of time to build the air pressure under their huge frames which means it takes a large amount of distance for them to actually get airborne.  So, there I stood in the flight of two huge bowling balls heading straight for me emitting the loudest squawking /honking I have ever witnessed.   Barely ducking down in time, I was just able to get a shot off as they passed overhead.  Somewhat bummed that the shot was missed, I was pretty impressed anything came out at all and now there is a lasting remembrance of that bird outing.  Quickly getting my nerves back under me, I targeted in on one of the birds (likely the female) and captured what, quite honestly, has to be some of my favorite shots.  As always, the shots definitely lost something in the reduction process for this blog, but you can get a feel for how good they look in full 12M RAW.

and lastly…

So there you have it.  I do not think I’ll ever forget the woosh of those wings as it passed over my head or the incredibly loud chatter.  Mainly, it was just a relief they didn’t decide to lighten the load as they passed by.    Oh well, definitely worth the dog show hassle.  Hopefully you enjoyed reading about my little experience.

by the way… Happy Easter!

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