The Tumbling PheasantLast Friday, my buddy Ross Cornish and I headed out to the wilds of North Dakota. It was the last weekend of the pheasant season and we had two goals: 1) to hunt pheasants (duh) and 2) to right a massive wrong.
You see, Ross and I are both professional photographers. But the last time we hunting in North Dakota, just before Xmas, we didn't even bring our cameras! And since winter in North Dakota can actually be quite beautiful – in a strange, minus-35-with-a-howling-wind kind of way – we'd been kicking ourselves ever since. So when we decided to go back for one last hunt, we made sure to pack our hunting and photo gear.
On day one we got lucky. We shot a limit of roosters by 3 p.m. So we decided to head back to town and take a few photos on the way. About half way back we noticed a farm yard protected by a thick shelter belt of trees. Upon closer inspection, we discovered that the whole place was filled with birds. As we approached, we could see dozens and dozens of pheasants milling about, walking and flying across the road into another stand of trees on the opposite side. So we hatched a plan: one guy would hide in the ditch with his camera while the other guy flushed the birds over him so he could get some shots of the birds in flight.
We pulled into the yard and knocked on the door of the house to ask permission to 'shoot' the birds with our cameras. The lady who answered the door was very friendly (I've yet to meet and unfriendly North Dakotan). She said 'be my guest'.
Ross was up first. He hunkered down on one side of the road while I walked the tree line on the other side 'pushing' the birds towards him. He ended up getting some really nice shots, like this one.
Then it was my turn. I found a spot next to a telephone poll and waited for the birds to fly over me. The first bird was a rooster. When it was about 75 yards away, I lifted my camera and fired off a long burst of frames with my Canon's high-speed motor drive. Here is one of the first shots from that series.
Notice the telephone wire in the bottom right corner? Well, it is one of two wires. The other one is not in the frame; I did not notice it. But neither did that rooster! As I was firing away with my camera, I heard a mighty TWANG! but kept on shooting. Then I saw a puff of feathers and realised that the rooster had flown right into the wire. But he seemed to recover from the hit; I saw him fly away into the distance as the feathers he left behind floated down to the ground. So I turned my attention back to the other birds whizzing past me and got some nice shots like this one:
When all the action was over, I told Ross about the tumbling rooster but figured I missed getting any shots of the action. It wasn't until we were back at the hotel reviewing all the images of the day that I noticed I actually did capture the action, at least in part.
So here they are, three not-quite-in-focus shots of the tumbling rooster, Photoshoped into a single frame.