On birds, Low Country sun, and waiting for the sublime

They fly with grace and a lovely sinuous curve of the neck. Then they land like drunken doofuses. As they slow near the ground, they are barely in control of their own bodies, like a cyclist losing the stability of momentum.

On birds, Low Country sun, and waiting for the sublime
Chiaroscuro (©Dale Keiger)

Or, you have how many pictures of shorebirds?

How many photo trips to Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge now?

More than 30.

Lots of different birds each time?

No, same birds. Egrets, swans, snow geese, herons, often a pair of eagles. Ducks, the occasional coot.

How many images of them now?

Thousands.

How many good ones?

Fewer than that.


Cygnus2 (©Dale Keiger)

The shapes, the lines, the curves. There's a spontaneous avian geometry that winks into view like an atomic particle, then disappears, replaced by an awkward angularity. Then the grace reappears. Here it even has its own term: an ogee neck.

At the dimming of the day, you bathe in the gorgeous Low Country light, finger poised on the shutter, watching for a sudden ordering of points on the Euclidean image plane, x2 = -4ay and  x2 = 4ay. There. No, there.


Suspended (©Dale Keiger)

Soft downy textures offset the savage sharpness of a bill and a cold predatory eye. With your mind, peer through the feathery sheath to feel the coiled power in that neck. Poised stasis vanishes in sudden lightning motion.

One collective noun for an egret assembly is a skewer of egrets, which seems apt. An egret can be still as stone then strike like a cobra. Sometimes you capture it. Mostly you don't.


Vrksasana (©Dale Keiger)

They fly with grace and a lovely sinuous curve of the neck. Then they land like drunken doofuses. As they slow near the ground, they are barely in control of their own bodies, like a cyclist losing the stability of momentum. Frequently they preen and groom and tug at their feathers like teenaged girls fussing with their hair. They don't know it, but they do yoga. Balance poses, mostly. Count the legs.

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