Sometimes It’s Too Easy to Get a Good Shot

Maybe I shouldn’t try so hard.

The other afternoon, I drove down to Quincy Lakes with my Nikon D80 camera, 70-300 mm VR lens, and monopod. It was a scouting expedition for me. I’d spent a lot of time down at Quincy Lakes in the summer of 2008, photographing birds. This was my first visit in 2009. Although I brought my camera along, I wasn’t really expecting to take many photos. I was more interested in finding “good spots” to set up a tripod for some serious photography.

Of course, once I got down there and saw the incredible variety of colorful birds, I couldn’t stop myself from shooting away. I’d park the truck and hike a bit of a distance away from it, plant the foot of my monopod in the dirt, and target a bird. Most of the red-winged blackbirds and yellow-headed blackbirds I saw, however, were clinging to tall reeds, with other tall reeds blocking my view. I shot a lot of photos, but knew that only a small percentage of them would be any good. I wasn’t sure how I’d be able to do any better with a tripod.

After about 90 minutes and eight or so stops and short hikes, I was tired and ready to go back and review what I’d shot. But I detoured down a road to check out the camping area. If Mike comes up to Washington to join me later in the season, we might pull the trailer over there for a few days of camping on a lake.

I was just driving away from the parking area when I spotted a yellow-headed blackbird clinging to some reeds on the side of the road. The bird was less than 15 feet away from the roadside. I pulled up abeam him as quietly as I could in a diesel pickup truck and pressed the brake to stop. For a moment, I just looked at the bird and he looked at me. My camera was still attached to my monopod; its leg was almost fully extended. If I opened the door to step out or swung the leg around outside my window, the bird would surely fly off. In fact, I couldn’t understand why he hadn’t already flown off.

Yellow-Headed Blackbird

Yes, I shot this photo from the window of my truck.

With my foot still on the brake and the truck stopped squarely in the middle of the narrow dirt road, I reached over and began to unscrew the camera from the monopod’s very basic swivel head. Every once in a while, I’d glance back at the bird. He remained in place. I finally got the camera free, zoomed it to 300 mm, and focused. I squeezed off about a dozen shots before the bird flew off.

This is the best one. It is not cropped.

I don’t know about you, but I find this incredibly ironic. We gear up and go out with multiple lenses and filters and tripods. We hike away from roads and vehicles and people. We bushwhack off trails and wade into streams.

And yet it’s possible to take a photo as nice as this without leaving the vehicle.

Hell, I think I even had the stereo on.

It pays to cruise around with the windows rolled down, I guess.

What do you think?