Peek-a-Boo with a Roseate Spoonbill
By Kelly Dean
Sometimes you just have to play peek-a-boo when you shoot nature shots. The animal’s behavior is unpredictable and sometimes downright odd, but sometimes kind of cute. They seldom want to be approached for a photograph, so a meeting of the minds must take place.
Florida is migratory heaven in wintertime.
Nature magazines are full of such beauty shots where the photographers sit for ages in the rain with long lenses waiting to catch the perfect shot; but in reality, animals don’t generally show up for the casual shutterbug to photograph them. We catch them in glimpses, snap a shot, cherish these opportunities and tell stories about them.
I try to catch all my animal photos in their natural habitat. It doesn’t matter if it’s among people so long as it’s a place they choose to be rather than a place people have chosen for them. But with that comes a certain amount of grief, like hiking and driving and frequently having very wet feet. Add to that, the shots don’t always look like national geographic shots either. They look more like what a hard-to-find bird might look like when it first gets out of bird-bed.
I happened upon a few roseate spoonbills on a visit to Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge recently. They are seasonal there, but not in any way predictable. They were doing their own thing, not posing for the camera. In fact, they were more interested in relaxing than accommodating me. But I was able to get up close to them, far closer than people normally get. It was a trade-off.
I didn’t get the out-stretched wings shot, but I did get very close to them – so very close that they reacted to me, made eye contact. They weren’t threatened, but they were mindful. We engaged somewhat, playing peek-a-boo. And I got some close-up pictures with them — keeping their eye on me the whole time.
When I first approached, one was literally asleep in the shade of a mangrove. Her head was tucked beneath her wing and — let’s call her Rosy — was not willing to awaken just because I’d approached.
So I hiked a couple of miles and then backtracked, hoping Rosy had awakened from her nap. She had; but she was a bit grumpy and stayed on guard while her partner did the outstretched wings thing –behind some trees, of course.
She eventually came out for her close-up — she was finally ready, Mr. DeMille.