How hard would you work to create stunning images? I read about a photographer called Alan Mcfadyen. He spent six years and 720,000 attempts to get an amazing photo of a Kingfisher bird! Wow, I would call that dedication. The photograph of a Kingfisher just before it hit the water is one of the best bird images I have ever seen!
Could you imagine going out day after day, month after month, year after year? The amount of dedication shows the passion Alan has for his craft. Looking at all of those failures to get a perfect image! I think it shows how you can have so many failures in life, but if you stay dedicated, have a plan, and work hard, never give up, you will succeed.
Now I have never spent that much time getting an image I am happy with. But I did go 90 days straight and took 3,103 pictures to get the pictures below of these Cinnamon Teal ducks in flight. The first day was a beautiful warm day in a California desert in Winterhaven. I have camped there for years in the wintertime with my aunt Kathey.
We spent 10 years traveling together full time until 2015 when her Dementia got really bad, and I had to put her in a nursing home. I hope that you never have to make that decision with someone you love. It’s heartbreaking!
So I started out and hiked to the Colorado River to see how many ducks I could photograph. I came across an area where the Imperial dam maintenance crew would dump brush that they removed from the dam and burn it. It was a small area with a pond that was totally black. Soon as I got there, boom, the ducks flew off. So I thought I would come out every day to that area to see if they were there.
Several days in a row, no ducks. But I kept at it because I thought that I could get the shot I had envisioned when I was looking at it. There was a hill behind the pond. It was a Caramel brown color. In the morning, the sun would be behind me, which was perfect. Plus, I loved that jet black colored water.
Went out a little early and I saw them fly to the pond. I got super excited. When I got close, I bent down and crawled to where I could get behind some brush. I could see the ducks, but they were too close. So I decided to wait. While I was waiting all of a sudden, something bit the crap out of my legs! I jumped up and yelled, the ducks flew off! I looked down at my legs, and I was covered in fire ants! Holy crap, the bites burned like hell! If you ever have been bitten by fire ants, you know what I mean. Trust me, you never want to get bitten by fire ants! I hiked back to our campsite and got inside our RV and got a bag of frozen peas and placed it on top of the bug bites. Luckily I only had three bites.
The next morning though both my legs were still burning, I was on a mission to get the shot I wanted. It was a good day to photograph because it was chilly outside, and there were no clouds. I got close and crawled up, but this time I avoided the fire ants. It was a better spot. It was a little to the right of where I was, so I poked my head up slowly. There was a female and a male cinnamon teal duck eating. My heart started to pound. I felt some sweat roll down my face. I took a deep breath and started to stand up, and all of a sudden, there was a shadow on the ground and boom the ducks flew off. It was a hawk I fell backward and landed on my but I laughed my ass off. I was a little mad, but I love taking photos of ducks!
I thought I may never get the image I imagined. Day after day, I went out there so many days where I got pictures, but the light was terrible due to cloud cover. The photos were so blurry they looked horrible. At times I can be very disciplined and work hard to achieve something. There are times when that voice in my head will fill my mind with a lot of negative thoughts. You know what am I talking about? I think everyone can have those thoughts where you are your worst enemy.
I have worked hard to have a better attitude towards myself over the years I cared for my aunt Kathey. She was a very positive person. She always pushed me to become an artist, not just a photographer. Went out again, and this time I heard the ducks before I saw them. I got down and was still as possible; they were chattering like crazy! I could see that they were in the back of the pond, and there were six ducks, not two. Again my heart was pounding. I felt a big smile come over my face. I told myself today is the day. They got closer and once again right before I stood up boom that dam hawk flew in again! All the ducks flew off; I was pissed!
I went back to the RV and told my aunt what happened. She started to laugh at me, and that made me get even madder. I said, what’s so funny? She said you’re mad because you should be happy that you get to go out and take pictures of ducks! Most people have a 9 to 5 job that they hate. She was right. I did a lot for her and me while we traveled around the country together. But it was nothing like the jobs I had in retail. I was very blessed to have spent those years with her. I miss her every day! She passed away in 2016.
On day number 90, it was another great day to go out, and something unexpected would happen that day. I got to my spot and saw a male plus a female. I looked behind me to see if that darn hawk was around. No hawk, so I keep an eye on the ducks for a long time. They seem to be happy swimming around and eating. I was in my head a lot. I thought about what my aunt had said about being happy just to have the opportunities I had to take photos. They were swimming very fast through the water.
I said a prayer for them to fly in the right direction because if they flew towards the sun, It would ruin my image. I stood up, tucked my elbows in, pointed my telephoto lens, and they flew right where I wanted them to go. I got three shots of them and looked at my LCD screen to see if they were any good. They were I started to laugh and sing and dance around screaming yea ha!! I walked back to the road, and this couple on bikes stopped. The man said we have seen you out every day. I guess you got a great photo? I said, my name is Michael. He said his name was Gary, and this is my wife, Linda.
Later in the week, I found that they were camped close by, and he also loved to go out and take photos. You never know what God has planned for your life. We became good friends and went out a lot together and took pictures.
By Michael Vance Pemberton
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