Singing Sky Photography | Dancing with Dippers

Dancing with Dippers

January 27, 2018  •  5 Comments


 As I drove across the Gallatin River over an old (1919) steel truss bridge, I looked down on the river and saw this compelling ice formation on the river's edge. Immediately I saw an image in my head and knew there was a good chance I could make it a reality. I parked and began walking back across the bridge to access the river. I encountered several vehicles as I walked across the weathered wood bridge deck. The whole structure creaked and groaned as I stood to the edge and let the cars pass. While waiting, I looked down to the ice ledge and noticed two small birds on the ice. Their quick, bobbing motion gave their identity away! These were American Dippers, also known as Ousels. They are year round residents that live along rivers and actually dive in and using their wings to swim and their sharp little feet to grab at rocks, they search for aquatic insects to eat. I made my way down to the water and began to hear the most amazing birdsong! I've not heard such a sound in the dead of winter before! Turns out, this was the song of the Dipper! It seems as if this may have been a mated pair. They danced through the air and on the ice as they flitted about chasing insects and each other. I joined in their dance, albeit less gracefully,  as I made my way across the slippery ice to "my spot". The sun was not yet up so I had time to set up my tripod which opens up and allows me to set the camera almost on the ground to get the angle I was looking for. I like the contrast of blurred water and crisp ice so I opted to use a dark filter which allows me to use a longer exposure than the available light would normally allow. I knelt there on the ice for close to 30 minutes waiting for the color to arrive. I love it just before sunrise, when the Earth's shadow envelops the landscape but the sun-kissed clouds light up the scene with glorious morning light! That is exactly what began to happen as I started clicking away! The Ousels continued to flit about, Canada Geese honked in the distance, and I even saw a Bald Eagle fly over. A hundred yards downstream a Kingfisher clacked its distinctive call and there on the icy edge of the Gallatin River, this photographer's heart danced and sang with the Dippers!


Wow! Just beautiful! The story, the birds and the photo! I could hear the birds!
Karen Miller(non-registered)
This is a gorgeous photo Paul. And a beautiful description of the moments leading up to the final crescendo. Thank you as always for sharing your passion with us.
Stunningly beautiful!
Jan Holdorf(non-registered)
They say a picture is worth a thousand words. Here we have both - a splendid picture AND a thousand words - give or take - from the tender and observant heart of a true lover of Nature and all her hidden wonders. This blog is the perfect photographer meets writer, Paul, and is the vicarious answer for those of us without a Nikon D7100 and without the desire to dance on ice.
Mrs. Holdorf(non-registered)
I love your stories as much as I love your photography!
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