Bill Maynard

Big Rideau Lake, Portland, Ontario, Canada

July, 2011

The Technical

Camera Body: Nikon D3x
Lens: Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 600mm f/4G ED VR
Support: Gitzo Series 5

Camera Settings:
Shutter Speed: 1/1600 s
Aperture: f/4
ISO: 1000
Focal Length: 600mm

The Scene: 

Each Spring and in to the Summer months I have had the opportunity to observe loon pairs on my lake from the time they nest to when the chicks are born. I generally spend my limited shooting time with the adult who is caring for the chicks as they stay close by the chicks and continually bring them crayfish and minnows so there are many good opportunities for priceless images.

Most mornings the day begins with both adults feeding the chicks and then one would venture off on its own.  I assume that’s the male but I really don’t know.  On this day I decided I would follow the lone loon to see where they went with their free time away from the kids.  The sun was just beginning to crest over the tree tops in a small back bay so the light was golden and reflecting off the calm water, it could not have been more peaceful.

That is until the adult caring for the chicks about half a kilometer away began to cast out a very alarming distress call which its partner reacted to mmediately.  If you’ve ever seen a loon trying to fly you’ll know it takes them forever to get airborne but what I had never observed before in such detail are the first few seconds before forward momentum begins.  That is exactly what is captured in this image, the bubbles are created as a result of the loons feet churning the water with its feet.

Making the Shot:

I have a flat bottom boat with a trolling motor mounted on the front and a hand held remote control which allows me to sit in the bottom of the boat with my long lens mounted to a tripod.  In this way I can be at eye level with the loons and follow silently from a distance.  On these early morning shoots I usually have the ISO pumped up to accommodate for the lower light and I try to keep the shutter speed above 1/1250 to freeze the action.

Looking Back:

I did not expect anything to come of following this loon, I was simply curious to see where it went every morning and my curiosity was rewarded.  That fall I did the same thing following that loon and came across five swans in the mist on the water.  To date that is still one of my favourite images and both happened by not staying with the sure thing, in this case loon with chicks.


Once you have enough images of a subject from one vantage point try something new.  Move to a new location, seek out a different subject you never know what surprise lies around the next corner.