Somewhere out there…

yellow-crowned night heron Nyctanassa violacea dozing in thicket
… someone has almost the exact same image.

I found this one while picking this week’s Sunday Slide, and decided to mention it just to flesh out another post, so here’s the story. While shooting in the Audubon Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary near Naples, Florida, I espied this yellow-crowned night heron (Nyctanassa violacea) dozing in a thicket of branches. It was a little distant and hard to see, but that’s why I had the Sigma 170-500mm lens along.

The boardwalk trail that I was on was relatively busy that day, and when you have a long lens set up on a heavy tripod, people start trying to see what it is you’re shooting. Now, far too many photographers that I’ve encountered are aloof and kind of asocial, often treating anyone near them as irritating and, at the very least, trying to ignore them. In a very small way I somewhat understand this, because on average, people don’t demonstrate the kind of low-key, silent, unobtrusive observation that is important to wildlife photography, and are easily capable of chasing off a subject or at least altering their behavior. But you know what? Go shoot in the deep wilds completely away from everyone, hotshot. If you’re in a public access area with a nice solid surface to plant the tripod and no muck seeping into your shoes or the seat of your pants, other people are just what you deal with.

I’ve had my share of shots ruined by noisy people, too, and have probably ruined a few in my day as well. But I’ve never felt that I had to stake a claim to a shooting location or any shit like that, and having people around is just what you have to expect and accept in some locations. And if someone expresses curiosity, I’m usually happy to point out what I’m shooting, and have even lowered the tripod to allow kids to get a peek through the viewfinder. Boy, in this age of hypersensitivity that sounds like a horrible double-entendre, doesn’t it?

On this particular day, when a young couple had managed to spot the bird that I was shooting (while I waited patiently to see if it would display some interesting behavior,) and they commented on the lens, I asked what kind of camera the woman was using. When she confirmed that it was a Canon, I disconnected my Canon body from the lens, leaving the lens affixed to the tripod and still pointing at the bird, and simply invited her to attach her own camera. Once she got it locked in after a moment of fumbling (most people are used to rotating the lens itself during changes, and having to rotate the body instead is confusing,) she stood on tiptoe to see through the viewfinder, and gasped – 500mm offers some nice magnification. She fired off a couple of frames and thanked me profusely, and I just smiled and shrugged – I don’t consider it a big deal, and even if I felt super-competitive, this wasn’t the kind of person that was likely to take sales away from me.

I am far from being an outgoing and social person, and generally dislike crowds and noise and all that, but I see no reason to be distant or impersonal – a little goodwill can go a long way. And even if it doesn’t benefit me directly in any manner, it’s still not a bad trait to foster overall.

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