The first sign that the morning was not going to work out as planned occurred as I was crossing the Chesapeake Bay Bridge shortly after six AM on Saturday morning. The plan was to stop into Kent Narrows on my way to Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge to finally take the sunrise photo I had scouted a few months earlier when I was on KI early one for morning for work. However as I crossed the bay the sky to the northeast was heavily clouded over. There was a thin, very thin, line of bright red along the horizon but other than that the clouds were obscuring the normal brilliant reds and yellows we see this time of year. I elected not to stop and to proceed full speed ahead to Blackwater.
The main reason for going to Blackwater was to finally get a photograph of a Bald Eagle. As I entered the refuge I quickly found my way to the “Eagle Observation Area”. I admit I was a little gitty as I set up the tripod, dialed in the settings, and started to scout for the bird. The only problem was there were no eagles anywhere. In fact, there was nothing, not even a turkey vulture flying around. Strike one. After 15 minutes of standing in a stiff breeze on a 34 degree morning I decided to try my luck at another area so I made my way to the photographers blind (see above photo). This is where the conspiracy theory comes into play.
So here’s the theory. The eagles traced my IP address when I was looking at them on the Eagle Cam and decided to pull together the other birds in the refuge to frustrate me throughout my time in the park. The plan worked flawlessly. Shortly after I set up my camera and tripod in the blind I noticed a Belted Kingfisher perched on a branch. The problem? He was perched just far enough away that when I focused in at 300mm he was still about the size of the center focus point of the Canon 7D. In order to get up above 1/300 shutter @ F/5.6 I needed to boost the ISO to around 500. The result was total crap for kingfisher photos. Strike two. In disgust I packed up my gear and started walking back to the car when I heard commotion behind me. As I turned a huge (gigantic actually) Blue Heron trundled into the marsh, so back to the blind I scurried. But alas, again, he was just out of the limits of my 300mm lens. Strike Three. Pack the truck it’s time to find something, anything, to photograph.
I did manage the photo below while I was waiting for some action in the blind.
As I was scouting for another shooting location I ran across perhaps one of the funniest scenes I have encountered as a photographer. Set up along the bank of a small marsh pool were no less than 15 photographers. Each had some serious equipment set up. Huge lenses and gigantic tripods lined the bank of the pool. As I walked up to the group I wondered if an eagle had been spotted in the area. I set up my tripod (a short distance from the large lensers) mounted the 7D with the 70-300 Tamron lens (which looked tiny next to the fire power set up to my left). Again, the problem was no eagles. Instead this group of photographers was focusing on a single White Pelican swimming in the pool. Each time the poor bird stretched his wings the sound of rapid fire shutters rang out sounding similar to when a celebrity walks onto the red carpet at the Emmy’s. I gave up keeping up after five minutes or so. No eagles, no notable shots, and very very cold.
Nicely played eagles! Nicely played! I will be back…