Innumerable geese simultaneously take flight
as their equally startled photographer struggles to capture the moment.
To get a photo like this requires that you are driving around the country and happen upon a hilly field with a large number of geese spread out a distance from the road. You quietly turn off the engine and quietly close the car door behind you; from the excessive noise, you know there are more birds than you originally expected, so you grab your camera and head off looking for a good photo or two. Sometimes you get lucky.
I quietly worked my way toward the main body of the flock, much of the distance covered crouching low, sometimes even on hands and knees, keeping hillocks and other obstructions between myself and my destination. On the way, I encountered at least a dozen toe-stubbing, knee-scraping rocks, at least one snake and a few varieties of thorny plants that only Shirley Jowsey could identify. Every once in a while I paused to dig the dirt out of my new digital camera's orifices. I was starting to wonder what I was doing, or how this might look to someone driving along the road, but, the increasing volume of the excited, undecipherable conversation ahead urged me to continue.
I was still fifty yards away, and it was loud. I was having trouble hearing myself think, which was probably a good thing, or I might have considered turning around.
What seemed like an eternity later, I reached the crest of the hill. The sound was almost deafening now. Slowly, I raised my head and looked over the top. I was not prepared for what I saw, or for what happened next.
The field had disappeared. It's like I'd just stumbled upon the World Goose Congress. Visions of Hitchcock movies flashed through my mind, and I was beginning to think that maybe I really didn't belong there. I rolled over onto my back, checked my camera, took a few deep breaths, and stood up.
Where a moment before my head was vibrating from the volume, it was as if someone flipped a switch. There was total and utter silence. The only sound was that of my heart jumping a beat.
For that moment, time stood still, but then with a sound that I could only later equate to what I'd imagine a squadron of helicopters taking off from my roof would sound like, the floor of the earth lifted into the air, an explosion first in slow motion, and then with increasing rapidity until there was just chaos. A moment later, I was literally pushed back a step as the air from thousands of beating wings flooded over me in waves. I recovered my balance and brought my camera up, only vaguely aware that it appeared to be snowing from the crystal clear sky; in reality, the geese evacuating their bowels in their rush to get airborne. I didn't bother trying to look for photos to frame; I just held my finger on the camera shutter release and hoped for the best.
Ten seconds later, it was over. I was left standing on a hill in the middle of a stubble field, utterly alone. Something was clicking. I looked around for a moment before I realized what it was, and lifted my finger off the shutter.
|By the time I got back to the car, I was happy to see that a number of the geese were already settling back into their little pond, satisfied I was relatively harmless. My shirt was full of dirt and my tattered blue jeans would never be the same, but I had no complaints. It was difficult to see if I had gotten any decent photos looking at the small viewfinder on my camera, but it didn't matter. Those few seconds on the hill were indelibly inscribed in my mind.|