Sunday, August 29, 2010

Dealing with the dang winds

Concerning the winds, I look at them with two views; one as someone photographing from a canoe and the other as a paddler going on a long trip through the Everglades. As a winter season paddler, my range of wind tolerance goes as high as 25 mph. At 20-25 mph, I can paddle a headwind with much effort and my boat stays reasonably dry (side and back winds are a different story). Anything below 15 mph is acceptable, even on long trips.

For photography, winds take on a different meaning. 0-5 mph is preferred. 5-10 mph is OK but slightly annoying when attempting to anchor and stake out. Anything over 10 mph is unacceptable. And today, I had 10-15 mph on the bay, east winds no less.

Launched from the Mattheson cannel and came out to the bay through the marina. It was low tide at about that time, so there would be birds regardless of the stiff wind pushing against the shoreline where they would be wading in the grassy low tide shallows. The sky was a combination of rising cumulus clouds mixed with lighter cirrus clouds. The sun didn't have much chance for showing through, but somehow managed to eventually. Once on the bay, I had a moderate chop coming and waited until I got relatively close to the creek entrance before pulling out the camera and attaching the flash and beamer.

A flock of ibises flew in and I noticed a few other characters, little blues and tricolors. Laughing gulls were flying past in great numbers and this continued all morning. Several hundred of them flew in a southerly direction to where I had no idea. I watched a few brown pelicans fly by and spotted one or two diving near by. Same with cormorants.

I came up on the entrance of the creek. The birds were feeding but not in great number. The water was too restless and it was only in those areas where the water was too shallow to be affected by the wind that it took on a glassy smooth appearance. For instance, a tricolor heron was catching breakfast along some calm water but just above its head the water was running through a slightly deeper channel and appeared rough and noisy. In other words, not a clean background.

There are only a few deep enough narrow "channels" to move the canoe in closer to the shoreline. In one of them, I watched something relatively large move quickly in the water. Bait fish promptly jumped in attempt to flee the predator. Then I spotted something odd in the water, something I have never seen on this bay. It was the recognizable back of a gator, or more likely, a crocodile. The tail appeared above the water and near it were the large eyes and snout. Not a large croc, maybe only 5 feet in length, it disappeared under water. My first bay croc! Soon, I noticed its head on my right, a silhouette in the grassy water. Very cool, and I figured this was a smart croc. It's location made it easy for it to ambush bait fish and other marine animals that had been trapped in the shallows at slack tide. As is the case with the birds, lots of opportunity to feed on all kinds of marine life in this area. The photo above shows the head of the croc and you can see the water conditions as well.

The wind at my back, I pulled in as close to the ibises as I could get. Eventually, a couple young snowy egrets came in. A couple little blue herons got relatively close and a tricolor heron came in for a short period. When I shoot wading birds, I get my boat into a position that provides the best lighting within a "window". I figure it's about a 45 degree span, maybe a bit more when using the flash as a light filler. So when I see birds, I first figure out where I need to be in order to place them in the center of the window of opportunity and then began my approach very slowly.

In these shallow grasses, the boat hull slides across the grassy mud and it is noticeable. I moved slowly, stopping when the birds appear alert and wait for them to resume their business. Eventually I found an acceptable spot and stayed there. Birds flew in and out but mostly, the ibises did not move much. Even in very shallow water when the boat is firm on ground, the 10-15 mph winds will move my light boat. I used my foot as an anchor and that worked well. The ibises were in great location, the water was calm and the mangrove reflections were like an impressionist painting. My favorite bay scene.

The east winds continued to blow the water in and soon, the grasses disappeared as the water levels rose. All the birds flew away into hidden mangrove forests, except for a couple great white egrets that were still feeding on some shallow areas behind me. I attempted to capture some backlit scenes of one of them. The winds never stopped and at this point, there was no reason to stay out here. I put away the better beamer and headed into creeks to find my golden silk spiders.

Lovely spiders, the female golden silk weaver, I found a couple of them in good location. In the creeks, these spiders conveniently place their webs across the creek but in locations high enough that you don't run into them. Some are too far up and not photographable, but many are close. I found one that became animated and quickly moved onto a recently caught fly in the web. That's what I try to capture with these spiders. I have a million photos of them pretty much in the same position, but one that is moving offers some unique qualities. Also, background is everything. Today was perfect with several clouds in the sky. The mixture of blue and white in the sky is a great background for these spiders. I worked on one of them for about an hour, going between backlit and frontlit positions. The current was relatively strong and anchoring was very tricky. Without the anchor, I just let the current move the boat, attempting to slow it down with mangrove branches. With this situation, I simply have to take several photos in between moving the boat back in place, and hope one of 10 or so is sharp enough.

My neck sore from looking up continuously, I left the spiders and paddled back to the canal. Another beautiful day on the bay, despite the wind.

No comments:

Post a Comment