Bill Maynard

Big Rideau Lake, Portland, Ontario, Canada

September, 2011

The Technical

Camera Body: Nikon D700
Lens: Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 600mm f/4G ED VR
Support: Gitzo Series 5

Camera Settings:
Shutter Speed: 1/8000 s
Aperture: f/4.5
ISO: 800
Focal Length: 600mm

The Scene: 

With Autumn a beautiful scene unfolds as the trees colour the landscape with vivid reds, oranges and yellows.  However there is another form of beauty often overlooked and that is mist.  As the night air begins to cool over the warm waters below a mist forms.  While this may not sound very exciting to most, to a wildlife photographer it sets a mood that lends itself to incredible imagery.

On this September morning I was shooting my loon family hoping to take advantage of the misty morning.  And while I captured a few nice images nothing stood out as exceptional so I decided to go explore a few of the hidden bays.  As I rounded the corner into the first of those inlets to my surprise were five white trumpeter swans, which was totally unexpected, they were passing through on a migratory route.

I kept my distance and observed as they fed, capturing single and double images of these swans.  While they were good images, what was about to follow was when the magic unfolded.  One of the swans decided it was time to move on and as they did the others fell in behind, lining up behind another in perfect unison, and the rest as they say is history.

Making the Shot:

Shooting in the morning mist can make for some of the most incredible moods you’ll ever see in a wildlife  image.  However with it comes a challenge.  Our auto-focus lenses have great difficulty focusing in such conditions so I have always found that manual focus is the way to go.

My flat bottom boat with a remote controlled trolling motor allows me to sit in the bottom of the boat with my long lens mounted on a tripod.  This places me at eye level and my approach is stealthy.

I keep my ISO up in the early light to maintain a shutter speed above 1/1000s and in this case I wanted to shoot wide open to fade out the shoreline in the background and make the back drop all about the mist.

Looking Back:

These swans were not native to the Big Rideau, thus a willingness to break from routine and explore was rewarded.  This was also a good use case for auto ISO as there was clearly no need to be shooting at 1/8000s.  However that moment unfolded so quickly  and I had I tried to knock down my ISO manually I may have missed this composition. I have since begun to shoot many times in manual mode with auto ISO.


The night before check the wind conditions forecasted for the morning.  Misty mornings do not present themselves when the winds are up.  I look for winds of 5 km/h or less.  Give auto ISO with manual mode a try.  It allows you to set both the shutter speed AND aperture and lets the camera set the ISO to make a correct exposure within ISO limits that you choose.