Goose-filled Morning Sky. San Joaquin Valley, California. January 21, 2013. © Copyright 2013 G Dan Mitchell – all rights reserved.
Thousands of Ross’s Geese fill the hazy dawn sky above the San Joaquin Valley, California
This is a simple photograph of a morning sky almost completely filled with Ross’s geese. We had arrived here in thick fog a couple of hours earlier, first photographing cranes and a few other birds in the murky atmospheric conditions, relieved a bit by some slight clearing right about the time that the sun rose. Two big moments on any goose-photographing day are during the morning “fly out” and the evening “fly in” when thousands of the birds can suddenly take to the air at once in tremendous flocks that may begin with tightly packed geese and then evolve into a wider dispersion of the birds as they circle. Sometimes you can be surprised by one of the compact groups rising up at a distance that seems too far away to be photographable, but then they rise and spread out to cover the sky and begin to reach your own location.
This flock did more or less that. They first took to the air a good distance away near a group of large cottonwood trees. I recall thinking something like, “Too far away for my lenses” as the group first became airborne. Then they began to circle and spread and, yes, before long the edge of the flock was over my position. By this time the original cloud of birds had become, in some ways, more orderly. For example, they were mostly flying at about the same height above the ground – if you had been at their height you might have looked edgewise across a plane-like “surface” of flying birds. And although it may be difficult to see in this small version of the photograph, as the geese turned in various directions, portions of the flock would change color – notice the geese near the top of the frame that are lighter because their bodies are turned to the east and the morning sun, while in the middle of the frame the bird are turned in a different direction and their bodies are almost black.
G Dan Mitchell is a California photographer and visual opportunist whose subjects include the Pacific coast, redwood forests, central California oak/grasslands, the Sierra Nevada, California deserts, urban landscapes, night photography, and more.
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