Jan 22 2008

Freezing with Geese

by andrew

With temperatures in the 20s (and a bit colder at night) over the weekend, I knew yesterday would dawn with some potentially interesting ice to shoot. There’s a marsh just down the road, and while it is not a remarkable landscape, it always feels like it could yield some interesting photos at any given moment. I reluctantly dragged myself out of bed at 6:30 am on a day off and noted with some annoyance that I was already 30 minutes too late to get any pre-sunrise colors already unfolding.

It was 18 degrees and colder with windchill. I pulled on some crazy arctic boots that I had all but forgotten about until the night before. Scrounging for some cold weather gear I found them burried in a bin in our “storage room.” They had been issued to me in Minot, North Dakota during my Air Force days, and they kick some serious butt… water tight with thick wool liners, they feel like they weigh 10 lbs each.

Sure enough, the marsh was frozen over quite nicely. I was originally intending to explore the ice with my camera during the shifting colors of early light, but the Canada Geese quickly became my primary pursuit when I saw the scene they presented. I spent the next hour and a half inching closer bit by bit, sliding my tripod across the shallow ice, trying to squeeze evey last bit of distance out of my longest lens that maxes out at 300mm. I would have never even tried this without the boots, because I knew I was bound to break through in spots, and sure enough I did, but they kept me warm and dry.

As it was, the best photo I have to show for it doesn’t even look like I got that close. The geese were on to me. No matter how slow I went or how often I paused, they had a way of inching further away and settling back down again. I was almost in pain for want of a 2x extender or a decent 600mm (or better yet, both) to adequately capture the amazing sight. But as it was, I was able to keep from spooking them completely by taking it easy, watching and listening for their “warning” mode calls, and stopping when they noticed me until they were comfortable with my new position.

What amazed me was the sight of these geese, sleeping on the ice in well below freezing temperatures. And as if that wasn’t enough – and this is what I really wanted to capture but couldn’t with my short range – their feathers were covered with a significant layer of frost. They didn’t seem to mind much though. No wonder we make blankets out of their down.

Ice Geese