Tip #25. Know your subject

Tip #25. Know your subject

Beemer’s Pond, a borrow pit pond just west of Webster City, Iowa, has the largest concentration of Trumpeter Swans in Iowa in the winter. The rectangular pond is approximately 20 acres in size, and more than 200 swans winter there each year. Several aerators are located at the south end of the pond and keep a small patch of water open throughout the winter. It is this open water that acts as a magnet to the swans. A few years back, I made my first trip to this Iowa treasure. Not knowing Trumpeter Swan winter behavior, I arrived about 2:30pm on a January day with the temperature just above freezing. When I arrived, there were hundreds of ducks and geese in the open water and on the surrounding ice. Unfortunately, there were only a handful of swans. I set up on the east side of the pond in the fence row and waited, and waited, and waited some more. About 5pm I was froze to bone, in a fowl mood (odd pun), and ready to call it quits. The air was heavy with moisture and visibility had become about 200 feet. Just as I started to take my camera off the tripod head, I heard the unmistakable honking of swan overhead. In the winter fog I could not see them, but could somewhat follow their honking. The swans came from the east where they had been out feeding, flew over the pond, and then landed on the pond facing east. Luckily, I was able to grab a few images of them coming out of the fog, as they landed into the wind and facing me. Five minutes later the light was so bad I had to call it a day. Now, when I go back there to shoot, I set up about 4pm, and wait for them to come back to the pond. Had I known their feeding habits, I could have timed my first shoot there much differently. Now, I do as much research as I can before visiting an area to learn what the animal’s behaviors are to better time my photography. This is one of my favorite photos and is a good inspiration to me to be patient.