This whole idea started with a conversation with Nick Wood about which camera would be best for capturing his hunts. I've always had an interest in wildlife photography, thanks mostly to a subscription to Wildlife in North Carolina magazine that my grandfather purchased and sustained for me since middle school. From what I've read and seen, wildlife photography is an incredible craft that requires an incredible amount of patience and ingenuity, and I've always had an itch to try it out. Nick graciously extended an invite to join him on a duck hunt, and that's how I found myself packing up my gear at 4:30am and driving down to Warner Robins.
I'm not actually sure where we ended up. I was operating on around three hours of sleep thanks to an inconveniently scheduled trip to Iron Age the night before, so I wasn't paying much attention to anything other than staying awake. I do know that we were in or around Perry. After a short walk into the woods, Nick, his friends Matt and AC, and I settled in, them getting their locations scouted and guns prepped, while I fumbled through my camera bag with the help of an iPhone LED. The swamp-like lake was around the size of a football field, and we were on the perimeter at about the 45 yard line. Another party set up across the lake, but other than that, there was dead silence as the sun began to rise.
The kills came fast; far faster than anything I could have captured. You heard the ducks first, usually only the flapping of the wings, and as soon as I could see them, three or four shots had already been taken. My expectation of perfectly focused, mid-action photos of a full-plume mallard had perhaps been a bit optimistic.
I wasn't disappointed. As is the case whenever I venture into any new aspect of photography, I quickly realized that whatever expectations I had in regards to getting share-worthy shots were completely and inadequately based in ignorance and an over-inflated sense of self confidence. There's a whole bag of tricks for wildlife photography that I'm sure I've never heard of; not to mention several 500mm and 600mm lenses that are on the inaccessible side of five-figure price ranges.
I'm going back though. Nick has some better locations that will provide a little better access to the ducks that should allow me to work with the equipment that I already have. And for a day that started at 4:00am, I had a great time. It's awesome seeing someone else's passion and being allowed into that experience. Here's hoping my next post on this will have some actual pictures of wildlife, though.