It was, I thought, pure dumb luck that I found them. Laying flat on my stomach on plywood planks on the muddy bank of a pond, I’d spent all morning trying to capture the perfect image of an erratic egret fishing for its breakfast. I was having little luck trying to fit a lightning-fast bird that was 30 feet away perfectly into the frame. As the sun rose high enough to make the white bird an exposure problem, and my back started to ache, the water exploded, and a blaze of pink crashed down to my left. I dared not move.
With breath clenched, I strained to focus one eye through a hole in my camouflage netting. An orange eyeball stared back at me. Ten feet away, with head cocked in quizzical question and a face only a mother could love, the Roseate spoonbill stared intently at my camouflaged mound. The beautifully odd creature stood statue still. Seconds seemed like all the minutes of a year, and when I finally realized I wasn’t breathing and about to explode, the bird nonchalantly began to prune its wings and turned its head to the sky. Then, there in front of me, landed five more spoonbills
Whether capturing photographs of Roseate spoonbills, or a large grizzly bear, there is Time, there is Place, and there is ‘Be Ready.’ None of these are accidents. One photographer who knows this all too well is Charles Glatzer, a renowned wildlife photographer. “Nature photography is extremely difficult. We’re trying to capture the fleeting moments. How do we as photographers capture that to make the most out of every situation?” Glatzer has said. Charles, like me, knows the struggle of taking a myriad of conditions and making them purposeful in every situation.
For the next two weeks my routine became the same: up before sunrise, down to the platform in the dark; move my camouflage cover into place, hope I haven’t forgotten anything, and then wait. And wait. And wait. If they showed up, the spoonbills would fly over the pond, assess the situation, and if all was deemed clear, continue in a downward circular spiral, landing at the far end of the pond; pink plumage reflecting the rising morning sun. If they decided to land, and if I remained lifeless, they would feed and preen for hours—right in front of me.
Charles once summed up the feeling of getting the ‘perfect’ shot: “You look at the back of your camera, and you get this sense of warmth and gratification, that you know that the dedication to stick it out throughout the whole day was worth it. That’s the stuff you live for, that’s what fires you up, that’s what keeps you coming back.” He knows that using the Canon EOS 7D Mark II makes all the difference in these situations saying, the “100-400mm lens is a real game changer.”
There are no accidents as a wildlife photographer. We use the camera and lenses we trust—they have become second nature to our hands and eyes. According to Charles, the EOS 7D Mark II offers “crazy amount of flexibility and the crop factor is a huge advantage.” As a photographer, we set up our position for the best light, we dial in settings required for the situation, and visualize in our minds the image we want. We are future tellers, predicting what we think will happen and making the choices needed to be ready. We control everything we can, down to our knowledge of the species and its behavior. Nothing is by accident, and patience is not a virtue but a requirement. But, whether our subject shows or not, if we are not in the fully calculated ‘right place at the right time,’ we leave empty handed. Our images are no accident. “To develop your craft, it takes years,” Glatzer has said.
All photographers face challenges when capturing wildlife content. Even with 32 years of experience under his belt, Charles Glatzer still has to work hard, brave the elements, and master his equipment to create the amazing images he’s known for. Like me, he knows that in the backcountry, the unexpected and awe-inspiring can happen in an instant. With an EOS 7D Mark II and patience, he’s ready to discover and capture the majestic moments of nature that most people never have the opportunity to witness. In the images above, Charles describes how he uses the Canon EOS 7D Mark II and EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM zoom lens to capture those elusive moments of nature most can only dream about. —Written by Karine Aigner
Learn more about Charles Glatzer’s experience here.