I mentioned “f/8 and be there” at the end of “A Special Moment.” A reader who’d never heard of it before sent me this: “I should put that on a T-shirt and wear it on every outing. Great advice!” I think it is great advice. F/8 has to do with photo gear and technique. Being there has to do with showing up and being in place. Wasn’t it Woody Allen who said that 80% of success is showing up? He was right. You can’t capture anything unless you show up/unless you’re there.
The Great Blue
I’m reminded of a photo I took at Gifford Pinchot State Park in York County, PA in early November. I posted it on Facebook while calling it “an admittedly lucky shot.” In a way it was lucky because the bird showed up out of nowhere, and I had seconds to capture it. But in a way it wasn’t lucky, because I’d already locked in the camera settings I knew would work, and I was there.
Here are 2 responses I received. Each lady confirmed that last point. Bonnie wrote, “I hardly call that luck. More like patience, preparedness, and acting perfectly in the moment to catch that. Great shot.” Trudyann followed up with, “Shots like this don’t come without patience and multiple mornings out. Great job!” Here’s the bird a few minutes later. It had landed and was foraging. Like its cousin, the Green Heron, it was the epitome of focus and concentration.
Be There Regardless
When I think of being there, I think of being there regardless of the time of day, the weather, the season, the lighting, the setting, etc. I think of being there whether or not the stars are lined up and everything seems to be in place to get that “great shot.” I think of being there regardless of the odds or chances. If you’re there and ready, good things will happen.
Such was the case when, a few days later, my wife and I visited William Kain Park, a PA park and birding hotspot not far from the Maryland border. We ran into not a few Marylanders there. It was mid-afternoon and nowhere near the golden hour. We were on a boardwalk, and it was unlikely I’d be able to get eye-level photos. We were also facing the sun. A few ducks flew in, and to my surprise they were American Black Ducks. I wanted to capture them, but the odds seemed stacked against me. All of a sudden, one of them started bathing like crazy. It was an on-again, off-again bathing frenzy. Despite the challenges, I saw a photo op. Here’s one of the results.
The Wood Duck
Something similar happened several weeks later. My wife and I visited Gifford Pinchot in the afternoon. It was sunny, cold, and windy, and I almost didn’t bring the camera. I didn’t expect to find much. As it was, I decided to bring a backup (a Canon EOS 7D Mark ll), not my main body. Attached was a Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM lens.
As we walked by the lake, I spotted some Mallards close to shore. There was a smaller and more active duck with them—a Wood Duck. All were busy foraging, and all seemed oblivious to our presence. Maybe the tameness of the Mallards had rubbed off on the Woodie. I proceeded to get down as low as I could and fired off a number of shots. Here are the best two.
A Winter Visitor
I took all the above photos out in the open where there was decent or even great light. But being there involves seizing opportunities even in less-than-ideal settings where light is iffy. In mid-December, I captured this winter visitor foraging on the woodland floor at Gifford Pinchot.
As I recall, we were wandering down a path together and the little bird was always many steps ahead. But at one point it stopped and turned and looked my way. I stopped, as well—and took its photo. It was a fun moment. Even in darker woods, opportunities await.
And This Just In
Another year is drawing to a close. A heartfelt “thank you” to my readers and to the Facebook and listserv moderators who give me the green light to publish. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to you all.
If you’re interested in learning more about “f/8 and be there,” please check out this Adorama piece. There, you’ll also learn about the photographer Arthur “Weegee” Fellig, the man who supposedly coined the phrase.
Quip, Question, Quote
This seems like a perfect time to include the first stanza of Emily Dickinson’s beloved poem, “Hope is the thing with feathers.”
Hope is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul,
And sings the tune without the words,
And never stops at all…
4 thoughts on “Be There”
I have no camera but love photography and nature and totally understand your point: be prepared, be alert. Reading the part about the wood duck when you said you almost didn’t bring the camera literally made me gasp. LOL! You should know better! LOL! Great article!
I chuckled at your comment. Yes, I should have known better. I kept telling my wife afterward, “Imagine if I hadn’t brought the camera!”
Dave, THANK YOU for all your photos and thoughts, I love seeing your name pop up in my email inbox. Fine photos as usual but the topper for me was the second blue heron, the way the marsh grass harmonizes with the markings on it’s throat is just amazing
Thanks so much, Clark. That was a magical morning between the flight shots and close-ups of the bird foraging. Very glad you’re enjoying the blog.