"When I promised him a deer at ten feet he jumped for his camera, saying that in such an incredible event he would get what he always wanted, a picture of the graceful creature against a background of his native woods, in soft light and shadow instead of instead of the glaring black and white of a flashlight. At that disturbing proposition all his doubts moved into me, who have always found camera folk a fidgety folk. What with their fussing and focusing and everlasting uneasiness over distance or time or shutter, or something else which is never right and ready, they are sure to bedevil any wild creature before he come within speaking distance, so I took my friend and his camera along without faith, hoping for the best." (How Animals Talk; William J. Long; On Getting Acquainted, pg.115)
I had to laugh when I read this excerpt from a book I have been reading. Maybe it is just the way photographers are, but things have not improved much in the one hundred years since the author wrote this. Even with all the automation, there is still plenty of fidgeting and fussing to be done. This blog is proof enough.
I thought I was going to have the opportunity to prove my theory about ducks approaching nearer with the use of camouflage a couple days ago. When I first arrived at the pond, and before setting up, I could see a young brood of chicks out on the pond. (Did you miss the four male Wood Ducks in the same picture, a little right of center on the edge of the spatterdock?)
Once I got into the spot from which I wanted to film, I set up the camera. I almost always use a tripod. One reason is it gives you the advantage of not having to constantly hold it which can wear you out quickly when you are talking about a long (read, 'heavy') lens. But, there are better reasons than that — including sharper images.
After the camera was set in place, I broke out the camouflage netting which is simply a big square of material that can be 'molded' into any shape. Actually, it isn't square; it is longer than it is wide. I threw it over myself and the camera and made sure I was hidden from all but the most studied eyes.
That was when I realized this was going to be more problematic than I had anticipated. I thought I would be able to see fairly well through the spaces in the leafy parts, but I kept having to stick my fingers in the holes and expand them a little to see out.
These male Wood Ducks did come in closer than they had been approaching, but it wasn't close enough to convince me that it was due to using the camo.
I decided to remove the camouflage netting from over me and try another tact. The netting has loops of rope material along the edges so that it can be anchored and I tied off on a branch on one side, ran it around the front of the tripod, then tied it off on a bush on the other side.
I never have understood the thinking at Canon behind manufacturing their telephoto lens in a white material. Their entire camera line is black — except for their line of telephoto lenses. Who did they think was going to be using their telephoto lens? Nuns? I have a "raincoat" for the camera which is black, so I used that to cover the lens and make it less conspicuous.
With this setup, I was able to look out over the top of the camo material while the majority of my body was out of sight. When I was looking through the camera, even my head was not readily seen.
This female Wood Duck did fly in and land much closer than any past ducks had. She wasn't there long, however, because she thought she saw something that was not quite right and it is better to leave rather than stay and try to figure out what might be out of place.
That is one thing animals are better at than humans. It is better to leave and figure out what was going on afterward rather than stick around and try. There is a similar corollary in photography: shoot first and ask questions later. Otherwise, you may never get the shot.
The female flew straight across the pond and landed in the tree where she could study the situation from a safe distance. Smart duck.
The third instance where the camo may have influenced how close the ducks came in happened when three ducks flew in a landed much closer than ever over on my right. Because the camo was tied off on the very end of a branch, however, when I turned the camera to face that direction, it caused the netting on that side to bounce around wildly like a flag waving. The ducks immediately took off. And that is why I have no pictures to show for it.
One of the reasons I still haven't decided whether the camo works is because there seemed to be a dearth of ducks that morning. I saw fewer ducks on the pond than on any morning I have been there yet. Meanwhile, I have had to rethink the whole camo netting thingy. I have since purchased some bungee cords to use in fastening the netting to the surrounding trees. I am planning on trying again tomorrow.