Sometimes photography is a one-time opportunity that comes and goes in a flash. Other times it’s like mining for gold – you return to the same spot over and over again to dig for every gold nugget photo you can possibly get. The latter was the case for me recently as I photographed a family of ordinary Canada Geese – two adults and six goslings – every day for a month starting when the babies were just two days old. The discoveries were many and unexpected.
First of all, I began to see things I hadn’t noticed before. I found a correlation between the time of day and the weather with the quality of the light at the lake. I noticed that the background changed dramatically depending on where I positioned myself relative to the light; what coves and banks were drenched with light and when; how and when the light lit up the yellow fuzz on the goslings like Christmas lights.
My return trips also allowed me to become familiar with the habits of the geese. I got to know ahead of time when the goslings would pop their heads up from under Mom’s wing at the tail end of a nap. I listened for Dad’s brief muted “honk” that alerted all to oncoming threats and sparked them to run, well, like geese. I learned that the adults lower their heads to the ground or water when readying for an attack – usually on approaching adult geese, possibly their own offspring from years past. The things I noticed over time led me to be able to increasingly anticipate and hold out for the best shots.
Photography-wise, going back afforded me second chances to make up for flubbed opportunities that are now permanently embedded in my brain as reminders to check all my camera and lens settings regularly. Going back gave me the chance to try different perspectives, like when I intuitively grabbed my wide-angle lens and luckily caught the geese, all in a line, gliding across the lake over billowy white clouds reflected in the water.
Inevitably, my interest faded and it was time to move on. But going back and digging deeper left me with a story, a chronology over time, a collection of photos, and a richer understanding of the geese and my surroundings. I became a better photographer, too.