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Shooting a "Cannon"

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Shooting a "Cannon"


“You shoot Canon don’t you?”

“Ya, I’ve had at least one Canon camera since the early 80s.”

“Want to try my 500 mm f 4/L?”

If you are a photographer, you no doubt are saying “WOW.” If you aren’t you are probably saying “…wonder what’s on the next page?” 

The day before that conversation, I had received an email from a family friend, one the most successful wildlife photographers I know. It asked if I wanted to meet him at o-dark-thirty the next morning to photograph a flicker nest not far from my place. I jumped at the chance. 

Therefore, about 5 am the next morning, we were driving toward the nest, while, at the same time, watching to see what else the morning light was going to show us. We stopped at a blue bird nest but it looked like the babies had already fledged. Driving on, slowly, we saw a doe with a very young fawn nursing, but knew if we stopped, they would be gone before we opened the windows. 

Just as the sunlight was getting perfect we arrived at the tree and he asked me if I wanted to use his big lens. 

I asked what he had to use and he said an 800mm. So, we really did pull out the “big canons.” We mounted both lenses on tripods and I attached my camera. 

It really looked good on that lens, I mean REALLY looked good. 

Carrying the equipment to our site I casually asked, “So what does one of these cost new?” 

“About $7,000.”

“Ha ha, you know, it almost sounded like you said $7,000, ha ha.”

“Yes I did.”

I had just tossed SEVEN THOUSAND DOLLARS onto my shoulder and was walking through a ground-hog city. My ankles were twisting sideways with each step and stumbling seemed eminent, and I had SEVEN GRAND bouncing on my clavicle. 

The tired old Toyota I drive is only worth about half that. 

At the top of the knoll, as we sat our respective tripods in the tall grass, I realized I hadn’t been breathing. Huge inhale! 

I looked at his lens and he apparently read my mind. 

“About $10,000 new” he said like a businessman talking normal business expenses. 

It’s a good thing we were outside because I needed a lot of air for a couple minutes. 

It didn’t take long to be all set up and focused on the hole in the snag. It was about eye level and there was the small head of a young male flicker looking out. I squeezed off a couple exposures and looked at the screen on my camera. Wow!

I stepped back to look at the gear we had just positioned on the knoll. It reminded of the fore deck of the Battleship Missouri I had visited last winter. These were a couple of big Canons. 

About now the photographers reading this want to see an image these big boys took. I have included one. The others, if there still are any, want to see a picture of the lenses—I don’t have one. 

There was a cool breeze but the sky was clear and the morning light just right. We were in a nearly open field dotted by a few trees. Due to the wet, cool spring, the field grass around our legs was just starting to head out. In the distance were hills ranging from forty-five hundred feet to about six thousand. Many of them still had snow. That is unusual for mid June. 

I have noticed that we humans who designed seasons based on a man-made calendar are quite flummoxed by the weather this year. I keep reminding myself that nature doesn’t always follow our calendar. However, it appears, we are starting to get temperatures we consider more normal. 

In that clear early morning air, several blue birds and swallows made intricate aerial maneuvers getting insects for babies. Sparrows and finches were winging between the trees finding bits of vegetation for their young. A Red tail hawk made some “lazy circles in the sky” above us, just like in the Broadway song. The ground hogs, whose city we had traversed, popped up and squeaked at our close proximity to their homes. It was an idyllic spring sunrise. 

We were not in a blind and being quiet wasn’t necessary for this kind of shooting so we got to visit as we waited for the parents to bring breakfast. We had some catching up to do as we watched and waited. Regular interruptions stopped conversation when one of the adults carried in some protein for the young. The snapping of shutters was the only noise heard as we worked toward the perfect picture. Then back to how life had been happening for us. 


We were a couple of 60-somethings just BS’n. Not trying to impress, or complain, just sharing observations about how we were dealing with adventures given us, some planned and some not. 

We joked about how more money was setting on the two tripods than the cost of either of our first homes. We also talked about the pleasure of simply waiting for that perfect picture. And, how glad we are we don’t have to get that perfect picture in order to make the next mortgage payment. 

Finally, about eight, the sunlight was getting too flat and it was time to pack up. I took another look at how really cool my camera looked on that big canon, then removed it and put my 70-300 back on. It still looks pretty cool, and I don’t worry so much as I carry it. 

By the way, if I’m on your Christmas list... .


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Author info

Ernie Hawks Ernie Hawks is a former theater director who has branched into the creative fields of writing and photography. He lives in a cabin in Athol with his lovely wife Linda, and feeds the birds in his spare time.

Tagged as:

canon, photography, flickers

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