A Slow Movie

November 19, 2012  •  Leave a Comment

There was an unusual mix of circumstances that caused a large portion of the local Great Egret population to flock to the eastern shallows of the Tillamook Bay each afternoon for several days. While I'm used to seeing solitary Blue Herons, or even small groups, off the Oyster Point Jetty at low tide, I've don't remember ever seeing this many Great Egrets in one cluster; other, than the annual fall gathering at Hathaway Slough. 

The problem was that, though there were over 100 birds spread over the tide flats, shooting wide gave a bunch of white dots with no visual impact.

There are 31 visible Egrets in that shot, but they are so far away and spread so thin that, while the shot may be interesting to a wildlife surveyor, it's visually not that interesting. Zooming in gives some better potential, but still not visually interesting. There is no context, and at the distance I was shooting, just getting focus was a challenge, let alone being able to anticipate interesting composition.

While it was wonderful (in the truest sense) to be there to witness this, there simply wasn't any way to "capture" the sense of it as images. I was in the process of packing it iin, when I decided to move down the shore to see if I could get a better angle. Just as I was setting up the tripod, several egrets moved in close following one that had caught a fish too big to swallow. The one with the fish was looking for a place to drop it so it could try to reduce the fish to something closer to egret bite sizes. 

I was shooting with the 5DMk3 and the Canon 100-400 mm f4.5/5.6 so was able to shoot multiple frames as the birdie Opera Buffa unfolded. I wish I had had the presence of mind to flip over to video, but I never anticipated the sequence that occurred. Sadly shooting as an action sequence meant the card buffer filled at some key stages. Despite that I was able to film what I call a "Slow Film" of something where the sum is better than any of the single instances.

It opens with our hero in possession of a sculpin, a fish too big to swallow, being pursued by a cadre of opportunists. But notice the gull coming in.

I imagine the dialog: "You gonna eat that whole thing??"

Our hero tries to walk away...

In the process drops the fish-too-big-to-swallow...

The gull swoops in ...

There's a great deal more as the egrets go through poses ever so easy to anthropomorphize. They actually appear to gloat, and the original owner of the fish-too-big-to-swallow gets ticked with the lot but takes it out one one over eager soul. 

If I had been able to get a smoother sequence of shots I would have opted for an animated loop, but there are too many big of lapses in the sequences available for that to work smoothly. As is I put up the full sequence that I have in this gallery

If you let it roll as a slide show you will see the full drama as I saw it. Wish I had a better idea for how to present this, but for now the "Slow Movie" will have to do.

Photo location:  45°31'16.18" N 123°53'19.49" W

 


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