The Feather on the Pond by Kevin Westerlund

Colusa NWR 2019-00352.jpg

When I was editing my images, in an effort to decide which ones to include on this web site, I came to a realization about the photos that I consider to be my “favorites.” My favorite images aren’t necessarily the ones that are either technically or artistically the best. Rather, they are acceptably good photos where I have a pleasant memory of how I was able to capture the image. The photo at the top of this blog post is a perfect example of that.

During my first ever visit to the Colusa National Wildlife Refuge in January, I spotted this feather on one of the ponds of the refuge. Almost everything about it was perfect. Its stark whiteness stood out against the dark surface of the pond; it was ideally situated to catch the early morning sunlight; it was covered in morning dew; it was positioned in an aesthetically pleasant orientation – with part of the feather adhering to the surface of the pond, but most of it propped up against a twig; and the pond itself was completely calm. There was only one problem: I spotted this feather while driving through the Colusa NWR, where visitors are required to stay in their cars.

This presented me with an enormous challenge. To make the photo, I would have to position my car where I would have a pleasing composition from the driver’s side window. The feather was somewhat far out in the pond, so I drove my car as close to the edge of the pond as I could. I then moved my car forward and back, a few inches at a time. When I had finally achieved my composition, I was then faced with the challenge of taking a handheld photo with a long focal length lens. To isolate the feather, I cranked my 150-600 mm lens out to 600 and rested my camera and lens on a beanbag on my window sill. I then took several photos of the feather at 1/1000 second at f/6.3, hoping that at least one of them would be adequately sharp.

Photography for me has always been an extension of my ordinary activities. I could have easily spent a very enjoyable morning driving through the refuge and observing the birds. But photography enables me to bring these memories home with me. And when a happy memory results in a photo that I enjoy, the experience and the photo become perpetually linked. Whenever I see this photo, I will recall the joy I felt in making it; and whenever I think of the process of capturing the photo, I will have a desire to view it.

Nikon D500
Tamron 150-600 mm f/5.6-63. G2 lens @ 600 mm
1/1000 second @f/6.3
ISO 800