It’s just a log floating quietly along the shoreline of the lagoon’s long pond, until four painted turtles climb aboard to sun themselves. As is their routine, they line up in a perfect row along one end of the log. Suddenly, the picture you have been chasing for three years is right there before you. You shoot away, knowing everyone who sees the results will stream praise your way.
I am willing to bet, however, if you did take that good picture, you also have taken the time to learn some of the secrets of Presque Isle necessary to capture that shot. An experienced nature photographer is sometimes lucky. They get the perfect shot without prior planning. Most likely, though, he or she knows the secret of where, and at what time of day that the subject will be at its best. Moreover, they will be mindful of the effect of weather conditions on their subjects. They will also know the subject’s habits and when the subject is likely to be in a good shooting location.
There is, obviously, a little luck involved in nature photography; however, knowledge and experience play a much more important part then luck when
good results are your goal. Places, like Presque Isle, have their own sets of secrets that can make or break your photographic results. Patience is one of them. I can honestly tell you that only one visit of a hundred will produce a good shot if you do not plan. For example, if you want to shoot pictures of a Great Egret, you do not start your trip at noon and plan to spend just an hour. You need to be on location before 7 a.m. and plan to stay at least three hours. In addition, you should have scouted the area days before to make sure the Great Egret even visits there. To do this, you will need to know the bird’s routines before you can get that “lucky” shot.
Sometimes beauty jumps out at you, but much more often it waits for you to discover it. Great beauty can be found even in the simple and mundane. For example, I have a picture of an old flat- bottom wooden rowboat tied to a dock on Presque Isle’s Horseshoe Pond. Nothing special, until you add the weather and time of the year. It was a January day, cold, (zero degrees); the boat was frozen in place at the dock. The wind was howling, and the snow was flying. This particular photograph, taken 20 years ago, has always been a very popular shot in my Presque Isle collection. It has a sort of mystic quality to it. Besides, I really like it.
In order to be successful at nature photography (or to just enjoy it), you need to keep your eyes open; moments like the above are always right around the corner waiting for you to find them.
OK, quickly, back to why the turtle photographer could get such a great picture. First, he knew the weather was going to be warm and sunny. Turtles always move to open areas where they can sun themselves. That is because they are reptiles and do not make their own body heat, which is needed to help them digest their food. The warmth also helps their muscles move easier.
Next, he knew it was a quiet day with only a few people around. He had also located the logs in advance and confirmed that turtles used the logs. Therefore, you see, there was not much luck involved in his picture.
This summer, the Presque Isle Partnership, working with General Electric, will have a great new turtle viewing platform open at the Graveyard Pond area of the lagoons. With any kind of luck, it will be complete by Memorial Day. Keep watching here and follow its progress. Once this is open, it might be a great time to get your camera out and try your luck.
See you on the park!!
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