Gracious Goliath – March 2010

Shot of the Month – March 2010

A few years ago while living  in KenyaI took advantage of a long weekend to explore a couple of lakes that I had never found time to visit previously.

We first stopped a tLake Bogoria which is famous for its hot springs.  We had hoped to find the lake brimming with flamingos but there were few to be found and although the springs were interesting, overall we were underwhelmed.  Matters got worse when a large group of college students descended on the site.  Our goal of communing with nature suddenly disappeared as we became bit actors in a scene out of the movie Animal House.  After one night we pulled up tent in search of more tranquil pastures.  Next stop – Lake Baringo.

Lake Baringois an ornithological wonder and is home to over 400 types of birds.  Each morning and afternoon we hired a canoe with a “captain” and patrolled the shoreline in search of wildlife.  Late one afternoon we discovered this majestic Goliath Heron standing on an out cropping.  The Goliath Heron is aptly named given that it is the largest heron in the world and can reach 5 feet in height with a wingspan of close to 8 feet across and these birds can weigh up to 11 pounds.

Herons typically stand perfectly still by the water’s edge with seemingly endless patience waiting for a meal to come by.  The Goliath Heron feeds primarily on large fish using that long bill as a deadly spear though it will also feast on small mammals, frogs, and insects.

Often, serene images of nature belie a frenzy of activity taking place behind the camera.  Upon finding “the shot” the photographer springs into action feverishly setting up the tripod or support system.  Next s/he has to ensure that all of the camera settings are correct for the given type of scene.  Then s/he must adjust the lens and compose the image.  All this must take place before the subject moves or flees, or before the perfect light fades, or before some other calamity befalls that perfect moment.  Often that special something is gone in an instant and the photographer didn’t really get a chance to be a part of it, to really experience it, being too caught up in the details of the craft.

In this case you couldn’t have asked for a more accommodating subject.  The heron stood patiently as we moved the boat around in search of the perfect angle and as I changed lenses trying different perspectives.  In this exceptional case I actually managed to get the shot and then put the camera down, sit back and soak it all in.

Ahhhhh, nature…………