In my previous post (October 21, 2008) I included an image of geese in flight over a misty morning lake. Lana and Mark both made astute observations about the image and the process of making it. Their thoughts got me thinking that I would like to occasionally add more to the discussion about individual images. As Lana and Mark alluded, timing is an important component in the making of an image like this one. Equally important is pre-visualizing the situation before it occurs. What makes pre-visualization possible here is that the location is one that I have been at hundreds of times, usually around the same time of day, and very often with geese on the lake. I have observed these geese leaving their water roost many times, so I have a good feeling for their flight pattern.

Geese in Flight - (c) Paul Grecian 2008
Geese in Flight - (c) Paul Grecian 2008

I knew I wanted a wide-angle perspective to both give the location a sense of vastness, but also to allow myself some leeway in having the geese remain in the frame as they flew close to overhead. I also knew that I wanted to pre-determine the exposure before the geese flew over and so made an image without the geese and checked the rear LCD to confirm the settings. The geese needed to be against the sky and not overlap with any of the land. Since both the land and geese would be in silhouette, any overlap would mean a loss of the bird against the backdrop. In order to “stop” the geese in flight I would need a reasonably high shutter speed which meant increasing the ISO a bit as well.

I like the pastel tones of the sky and reflections in the water, the dark areas (negative space) add a sense of mystery to the image, the fog rising off of the water adds depth and atmosphere, all good thing in a landscape image. But I wanted some animation. If you’ve ever been around geese early in the morning before they leave their roost, you discover that they give you signs that they are preparing to take off. They become fidgety, extremely talkative, and often begin to move toward a spot from where they can take-off. It’s almost as if they are saying “OK, I want to get going, who’s with me”. So once I get the signs, I take my position and try to be where the geese will fly over head.

I was able to keep the 8 geese in this image against the sky, but equally important was that they did not overlap with each other. I have 8 distinct geese in flight. All of the thought that goes into making an image like this is possible only because I’ve done this before and I knew ahead of time what kind of image I wanted to make.



3 thoughts on “Self Critique I

  1. All the things you could pre-visualize/control were done extremely well. The only X-factor you could not control was whether the individual birds would over-lap (unless we venture into King Groundhog territory); you didn’t mention whether this was this one of a series shot on continuous (to increase your chances), or a single shot (let the force be with you)?
    ps. This is a wonderful shot for all the reasons you mention. I also like that a group of birds remain in the water, gives it a bit of the time element.

  2. Thank you Lana. I’m sure there were no surprises here for you.

    That “King Groundhog” reference will need explaining someday. You are right of course that I have not yet achieved a command of goose language in order to direct their movements. These birds do fly slow enough, especially on take off, to see the separation while making the image. But, I did make a series of images for the very reason you suggest and manually focus during their flight. I think you are right that having birds still in the water adds to the story by allowing the anticipation of a subsequent group taking off. They do not all leave together, nor do they all head out in the same direction. It would be fascinating to know exactly where these birds spent the day.

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