Last winter, I set up a photography blind on Fawn Lake, which is located on Washington State’s Olympic Peninsula. Our home overlooks the lake, and we have nearly constant waterfowl activity from October through June, with a good variety of wintering ducks, followed by the breeding season for Wood Ducks and Hooded Mergansers. No gas-powered motorboats are allowed on the lake, which enhances the opportunity to see the ducks; and even in fishing season the ducks and fishermen seem to get along without irritating each other too much.
During the winter, a group of 25 or so Double-crested Cormorants roost in a tree along the lake, which I have previously described in this blog as sounding like “pig birds,” if you can imagine such a thing. Pied-billed Grebes, Mallards, and Canada Geese nest here, in addition to the Wood Ducks and Hooded Mergansers that successfully hatch young birds in our nest boxes each spring. Predators on the ducks include Bald Eagles–one of which caught what I think was a Bufflehead female and landed on a tree in front of our house several weeks ago–and an occasionally marauding family of River Otters. The otters eat mostly fish, but the ducks give them wide clearance.
When I set up my photography blind, I wanted to be able to enter the blind at any time without being seen by the ducks. To accomplish this, I set up a tunnel of camouflaged tarps that leads down to the lake; I crawl down on my knees with my camera on a tripod, then quietly set up the camera behind a camouflage mesh. I still haven’t decided if I’m fooling the ducks with my elaborate setup, but it fulfills my childhood fantasies of trying to sneak up on animals.
In the blind, I lay prone behind my long lens, and look down into the camera using an angle finder to compose and focus. I like positioning the camera as close to water level as possible so that the photographs feel like they were taken from a duck’s point of view. These are some of my favorites from about a dozen mornings in the blind.
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