Surpise, Big Fella!

Yesterday (Friday), I took off work a couple of hours early because it was sunny and 90°, I was anticipating a cool front and probable rain over the weekend and I wanted to get in the water. Maybe for the last time before the seasons change and it gets too cold—it’s getting close to that time, y’know.

So I headed home, threw a kayak and all my gear in the truck and headed for Cedar Spring. An access on the lower part of the Current River, Cedar Spring is twenty minutes from the house and has become one of my favorite snorkeling areas. I can paddle across and down the river a bit to a fantastic vegetation-filled pool that extends behind a decent sized gravel bar.

This is important because if it’s a busy day with lots of boat traffic, the gravel bar protects the water behind it from the wakes from the boats, keeping the water much clearer than the main river. That wasn’t a problem yesterday—I was in the water for nearly three hours and not a single boat did I see. I didn’t see anyone, actually. It was wonderful.

Anyway, I had paddled across the river, pulled my kayak into the water willows to keep it out-of-site and hit the water with a mask, snorkel and camera. I was using my Nikon D90 in a Dicapac case, but I was having difficulty seeing through the viewfinder—I kept seeing the barrel of the case, which normally doesn’t happen. It finally occurred to me that instead of using a 50mm macro, I had the 18-55mm kit lens on the camera and that I hadn’t checked to see what it was set on before I put it in the bag. It turned out to be 35mm, instead of the 55mm I always use, and that was why I could see the case in the viewfinder.

I couldn’t change the lens while I was in the water. I keep a piece of cardboard mailing tube inside the case barrel to keep it from collapsing under the water’s pressure—this also happens to keep me from adjusting the lens. So now I either had to get out of the water, pull the camera from the bag and change the lens setting or keep using it as it was. I wasn’t going to keep using it like it was because it was driving me freaking crazy, so I turned to head back to the gravel bar, raised my head from the water preparing to stand and this view greeting me:

I had been backed up to a rootwad, holding a tree with my feet, trying to stay still and let the schools of minnows come close enough to photograph, so I hadn’t been doing anything to attract attention to myself. The heron probably thought I was a big piece of trash floating in the water, if he thought about me at all beyond registering me as “not a threat.” I could tell he was confused because he kept turning his head this way and that, apparently trying to figure out just what the hell he was looking at.

I slipped the camera above water and started shooting, even though I couldn’t really see what I doing. And of course the lens cover was fogged and dripping water, so the photos aren’t exactly high quality.

I kept moving slowly closer and closer, shooting as I went. He finally decided that maybe I was a threat after all and quickly vacated the premises, taking wing and heading down-river.

He didn’t fly far, only to the gravel bar, but the water between us was very shallow, he was now alert and there was no way I was going to get close again.

This was a very cool experience and I did get photos of it, but the never-satisfied part of me keeps thinking what the photos would have looked like if had I remembered to turn the lens to 55mm before I started and thought to try wiping the lens cover with my hand. That may have made things worse, but in hindsight, I’d have taken the chance.  Oh well, as Sheldon Cooper would say, “If if’s and buts were candy and nuts, we’d all have a Merry Christmas.”

‘Til next time.

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