Geese Rising. San Joaquin Valley, California. December 6, 2015. © Copyright 2015 G Dan Mitchell – all rights reserved.
A flock of geese takes to the air above San Joaquin Valley wetlands
Sometimes bad light turns out to be good light. Late in the day I made one last circuit of this location, hoping to find some birds to photograph in sunset light. However, the light was obscured by the clouds of an incoming weather system and much of the light at this location became rather flat and gray. (The light to the west was another story, and another photograph made within moments of this one includes a rather spectacular sky in the distance.) It was cloudy enough that most of the light had faded before sunset, and there wasn’t much left after that at all.
Yet… the flat light has its advantages. One of the challenges of photographing airborne birds is that when they rise against the sky they are often lit from above, and it can be difficult to get a photograph that isn’t simply a silhouette. But the soft light fills those shadows, and here there was also a bit of gentle light coming from the western sky through sunset clouds that had picked up a bit of color. As I stood around watching a large group of geese (mostly snow geese) settled in a pond, the suddenly erupted into flight en masse, in the typical wild show of fluttering wings and loud vocalization. The turned and passed right in front of me before continuing on to some unknown place far to the west.
G Dan Mitchell is a California photographer and visual opportunist. His book, “California’s Fall Color: A Photographer’s Guide to Autumn in the Sierra” is available from Heyday Books and Amazon.
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