Our Creative Gallery
                             Tony Peroutky, Action & Nature Photographer & Pat Peroutky, Gallery Manager and Photographer

Photo Stories

Featured here are some of Tony's favorite photos and the story behind them.  It's not always about the equipment, the settings and the technology.  These stories will give you some of what Tony experienced during the preparation stage and the actual photo outing/session.  Read on to see what he got out of the photo besides the image. 

The Day of the Mergansers! 
     On a Friday afternoon, early Spring, I got a voicemail from Pat (my spouse) telling me that "the Mergansers are back!"  I immediately started thinking of a previous experience while photographing Hooded Mergansers, what did and didn't work.  
     Two years ago, as the ice was moving out on our lake in the early Spring, we had about 30 feet of open water along the shoreline in front of our house.  This limited amount of open water kept the Mergansers in close.  It was late afternoon and the sun was getting low and warm.  I needed to get close to the shore without being spotted so I did a bad version of an Army crawl out toward the end of our dock that was pulled up on shore for the winter.  Well, I can truthfully say, I would never make it in the Army.  By now I was cold and wet from the soggy grass but in position next to the tire of the dock, just a few feet from the water.  I could see a few birds toward the sun, but they were quite a ways off.  There was another group in the opposite direction, but they were even further away.  So now what?  Well, after crawling all that way, I was determined to stay as long as possible to make it pay off.  And it did!  After more than an hour, the birds came right to me and directly into the now golden light.  Perfect!  There was a male and a female right in front of me where they stayed diving for food.  After about five minutes, they continued on into the sunset, but I did manage to get a couple of keepers. 
     That was then!  And I learned some things.  Now for this past Spring's "Day of the Mergansers" story.  As I said earlier, I got Pat's call that the Mergansers were back.  When I got home from work, we checked the shoreline for evidence of our visitors.  No luck yet, so I had some time to get set-up.  I retrieved my portable blind from the garage and picked a spot close to the lake with as few obstructions as possible.  Getting it set up as soon as possible gives wildlife time to get used to seeing this "thing" in hopes they would not be intimidated by it being there. 
     On Saturday morning, I assembled the gear needed in the blind and we continued to check the shoreline for activity every few minutes.  It was 8:00 a.m., the temperature was 37 degrees, it was cloudy and the distance I had to work with was 10-40 feet where the ice was receding from the shoreline.  I was using my Nikon D3 with a 400-f2.8 lens and 1.7 teleconverter; and a Nikon D200 with an 80-400 f5.6 lens. 
     It wasn't long before the birds started to gather.  Not wanting to spook them, we waited until the coast was clear and I had Pat help carry gear and act as a decoy by staying close on the way out - making us look like one.  Then after I was in the blind, she would appear like one going back again.  Once in the blind, it took me a few minutes to set-up, and then the fun started! 
     A group of five males and one female came my way.  I have to say, this wasn't a group date but it was a frenzy of maneuvers to get close to the female and impress her with a variety of tactics including:  head bobbing, wing flapping, chest puffing and a special call.  This is all part of their mating process in hopes of being selected by the female.  It was amazing, something I had never witnessed before.  I managed to get a couple of good shots and they moved past me and then they were out of reach. 
     Now I was warmed up and ready for more action!  While waiting, I reviewed my progress and was checking for highlights and double-checking settings when I realized that I had another visitor.  My rather large lens hood was sticking out of the blind and must have seemed like a good place for a small wren to land, apparently curious about what was inside the blind.  Once we were eye-to-eye, the wren decided it was too crowded for both of us and flew off. 
     A few minutes passed and the Mergansers were back in full form.  The competition had intensified and the numbers are now seven to one (lucky girl).  Being so focused on the female, not one of the males noticed, or probably cared that I was just feet from them.  Some were so close I could only get part of them in the frame.  I did manage to get a couple of sound tracks of the special call the males made and a couple more great photos.  Later that day, we tried again but the two groups passed by quickly and flew off.  The next day was warmer and the light was better, but it was over.  The Mergansers had moved on so I'm thinking, maybe next year! 
     The lessons learned are be prepared, stay focused, be patient and don't put it off until tomorrow.  Three years of trying and only ten minutes of opportunity to get a handful of treasures to show for it. 
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