A special photographic study

Photo of two geese at a small island on a lake. North Carolina.

For this photographic study I wanted to capture the lifestyle of geese: who they are, how they are, and what they do.

There were two challenges:
1. Geese are often fast moving subjects.
2. Birds are common subjects, yet I want photos that are not common.

Photo of two geese near a very small island in a lake. North Carolina.

Fast Moving Subjects

There were a lot of missed shots. That’s the first thing I discovered about photographing quick-moving subjects like geese. I found that my normal photographic process no longer worked, and I needed to reinvent how I take photos. That was this month’s challenge to myself: learn to shoot in a new way.

As a scenic photographer my normal process is…observe the scene, compose, choose camera settings, shoot. But with fast moving subjects the process became…there’s the subject, now it’s gone, shoot — oops I missed it.

Photo of geese flying, with some of the geese out of the frame of the photograph.

It was also very difficult to set the camera correctly in advance of the shots. Scenes change quickly when panning the camera to track a fast-moving subject. The light levels change, the composition changes, and the distance to subject can change (resulting in a lot of shots with poor focus). 

If you could only see the shots I missed! 

And yet, sometimes it worked. Some shots had the right combination of events: proper camera settings, good composition, good timing, and sufficient light to get the shot. 

Geese taking flight from a lake. North Carolina.
Photo of a goose taking flight from a lake. North Carolina.

Unique Shots of Common Subjects

I don’t really want to be a documentary photographer. I’m an artist and I want a level of artistic appeal in my photographs. For this, I rely on my eye when selecting which shots to show publicly. I’m looking for something artistic to show you.

Photo of a goose with one wing extended.
Photo showing the form of the back of a goose.

I think getting unique shots has less to do with the camera and more to do with the photographer’s willingness to get creative.

I spent a lot of time observing the geese, watching their habits. I befriended them at times and was able to move close to them. I moved very slowly and I whispered to them, which reassured them I was not a threat. I literally told them how beautiful they are and I meant it. It was a great experience. I got down on the ground and mingled with them.

Photo of a goose preening (cleaning) its feathers with a lake in the background.
Photo of the outline of two geese looking out onto a blue lake. North Carolina.
Photo of a goose from behind with wings open.

Getting close to the geese was necessary because I don’t have a telephoto lens. Without a telephoto lens you have to get close to your subject. And when I was not able to get close, such as when the geese were landing in the lake, I had to crop the photo pretty heavily after the shot was taken to get the composition I wanted.

Are the photos unique? This is what I asked myself about each of the photos I took: how easy is it for another photographer to go out and capture a shot just like this one?

Ok, maybe it’s possible? But I want it to be difficult. I think some of the shots can be replicated if someone really tries.

Photo of a goose looking straight into the camera lens.
Photo of two geese with heads turned the same direction.
Closeup profile photo of a goose.
Photo of two geese starting flight from a lake.

But a few of them will prove difficult to capture exactly.

Photo of two geese gliding in flight with wings overlapping.
Photo of 5 geese in flight, with one goose flying upside down.
Photo of two geese flying (flapping wings).

This was a month-long study. Imagine a year-long study. What shots could come out of a year-long study? And with a telephoto lens.

Photo of two geese at a very small island on a lake. North Carolina.

This was a photographic study of geese from spring 2022. Location: Cary, North Carolina.