On the one afternoon we had free and together at Bosque del Apache, the light was perfect, the air was warm, the colors were stunning, and the geese were cooperative. I remembered having found a lot of waterfowl on one impoundment, and suggested to Bill that we go check it out for its photographic potential. Instead of canvasbacks and redheads, what we found was a mixed flock of snow, blue and Ross' geese. And they were doing the most amazing thing: rising up, flying over to a nearby cornfield, staying a little while, then coming back to the impoundment. We stood on the dike and watched in amazement, our cameras clicking madly. I was able to document one rise in a series of pictures, which I'll give you now:
1. The geese give a great clamor of calls and begin to lift off the water.
2. The wind from their downstrokes writes on the water.
3. They gain altitude.
4. They rapidly get closer. Autofocus is the only option. I'm firing madly and laughing like a hyena, but you can't hear me over the clamoring geese. See the ripples on the water? I'll tell you about that later.
5. The bulk of the flock is directly overhead now.
6. I turn to catch part of the flock going over.
7. The flock on high.
Now, about those ripples on the water. Take a look at this lovely flock, coming right over our heads. See anything to be alarmed about? Let's take a closer look.Uh-huh. Pretty much every bird that takes off lightens its load by pooping. That's what the marks on the water's surface are all about. And mixed with the exultation and clamor of their liftoff is a pattering rain of warm goose poop. These are big birds, folks. So the soundtrack from the photographers clustered on the dike is gasps of wonder followed by exclamations of disgust. I had a hat on, and I've been pooped on by everything from terns to macaws, so I didn't mind. They scored on the front of my khakis. That's what field clothes are for.
This is one of my favorite shots of the session, for its symmetry and the poetry of the birds' synchronous wingbeats. But I have to note, being an observant person, that the uppermost bird is in mid-poop. I guess that's what Photoshop is all about. If I knew how to use it, I'd probably still leave the poop in. Why delete any information? Information is manna to Science Chimps.
I'll take a patter of warm goose poop any day, for shots like these. Oh, how I'd love to be back in November's sunny New Mexico, as the sleet patters on frozen boilerplate snow outside.Just remember to keep your mouth shut, should you ever be so lucky as to witness a rising.