Like many days, when I head out with the camera to shoot birds, I wind up with something entirely different. Yesterday we headed out to hike a few Audubon preserves-looking for any early migrant warblers. Migration has been a little behind schedule due to unfavorable weather conditions this spring. We decided to head to the Emily Rucker Preserve in Tiverton first. It's always a good place to start because you can get to several other good spots pretty quickly from there. The first thing we noticed heading out was how quiet it was. As we walked we saw almost no birds. We decided to do a loop along a salt marsh. On the back end of the loop I saw movement, coming up from the water where a stream enters the marsh. I put my hand up and stopped and Cyndy stopped behind me. The movement I saw materialized onto the path-It was a mink!
From all my past experiences with mink, I knew this chance would be fleeting. Every other encounter I've had with mink has lasted a few seconds-unless I didn't have a camera of course. When he first entered the path he looked away from me. That gave me a chance to get set before he saw me. I waited until he looked at me and pressed the shutter release. I fully expected him to bolt but he surprised me-he started trotting toward me in that wave-like gate of the weasel family.
Every time I clicked the shutter he'd stop. He'd look around, sniff the air-trying to figure out if what was ahead of him (us) was a threat. As he got closer and closer I started thinking he was going to run right by us. Looking at him through the telephoto it was beginning to look like he was going to be on my shoes shortly. Finally, he got to about 15 feet away. He stopped again, sniffed the air, and then decided that he'd better head back to the water. So he exited the path and scampered down the bank.
For any of you who aspire to shoot wildlife, I'd offer some advice from this shoot.
1: Always be ready because you never know what's going to come your way.
2: Know your camera well enough so that you can change settings on the fly.
As soon as he came into view I knew I needed to change settings. I had last photographed a bird in the marsh-good light. I now found myself in deep shade with a very dark subject. I hadn't put the flash on the camera so I needed to adjust on the fly. I boosted the ISO to 1600 and opened the lens 2 stops without putting the camera down. Excessive movement would have caused him to bolt. Also, if your in a situation where you're in constantly changing light, AWB is a good choice so you can let the camera adjust white balance for you.