Walk softly and carry a camera! Early in the 20th century, there was a US president (Theodore Roosevelt) whose approach to international relations was supposedly summed up with the phrase ‘walk softly and carry a big stick’. Well, I’ll paraphrase that as ‘walk softly and carry a camera!’ Today’s image was captured near the St Lucia Wetlands in South Africa. I found a small area of light forest and could hear several birds calling from the bushes and so set out to get a photo or two.
Carrying the Canon 20D and a 70-300mm zoom lens, I slowly and quietly walked, looking and listening as I did so. This is an area where the wildlife, birds included, get to see people fairly frequently. I found that not just walking softly but actually stopping in one spot for a few minutes was the best approach. The birds were aware of my presence and became curious after a time, alighting on nearby twigs or branches to have a quick look at, and assess me. This photo was taken with precisely this approach. The bird settled for just a moment, I raised the camera to my eye without any sudden movement and got several frames before he/she lost interest and flew on.
In this environment, there was an advantage to carrying lightweight gear as it allowed for handheld shooting without the need to manoeuvre a tripod meaning I could respond quickly to the opportunity when it arose.
My only regret here is that I can’t identify the species, if anyone has any idea, let me know.
As a postscript, let me recall an experience from many years ago when I was walking along a bushwalking trail in my home state of Victoria, Australia. I wasn’t carrying a camera at the time (this was well pre-digital) but was walking slowly, quietly and listening as I walked. I heard a sound in the nearby scrub and slowly crouched down to look through a gap in the bushes whereon I observed a Superb Lyrebird scratching around in the leaf litter on the forest floor. I sat for several minutes and watched this wonderful bird, a rare privilege before he disappeared deeper into the forest out of view. I only got this opportunity because I thread softly and quietly, respectful of the bush.
A few minutes later, I encountered a small group of fellow walkers, I believe overseas visitors, walking in the opposite direction. They were talking loudly, laughing and walking quickly. I imagine they had a pleasant walk but I’m also sure that they would have seen very little wildlife/birdlife. I wonder if they later reflected on their outing…. it was very nice but there weren’t many birds! ~KD.