Pink is what happens when preparation meets opportunity

albino bottlenose dolphin

Adult albino bottlenose dolphin (Tursiops truncatus) in Calcasieu Lake, Louisiana Photo: Canon 7D; 520mm @f/8; 1/1000sec; ISO400. (Photo by Gerry Ellis/Audubon/Minden Pictures)

When I was a kid I loved the Green Bay Packers.  Football was a once a week thing back then, not a 24-7 pigskin fest.  Legendary Vince Lombardi was the coach and I remember to this day a quote he said about luck: “Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.” I later found out it was Seneca, the Roman philosopher, who said it, but philosophers weren’t as cool as football coaches when you were ten.

A couple weeks ago after a morning out in the boat we were cruising back down the Calcasieu Channel pretty satisfied with the days shooting, a couple hundred good images to edit through that evening and fingers began to point off the port, then off starboard, dolphins.  Bloop, up comes a dorsal fin, pop! the slap of a tail.

We see dolphins pretty regularly in the Channel and along the surf line on the coast, but they are always worth pointing out.  They pretty much ignore us, and our boat; we don’t create enough bow wake to ride, so why bother.  But we never ignore them, something magically mysterious about such a lovely animal that you really never get to see.

albino bottlenose dolphin

Side view as the albino bottlenose dolphin cruised closer to take a look at us, Calcasieu Channel, Louisiana Photo: Canon 7D; 520mm @f/8; 1/1000sec; ISO400. (Photo by Gerry Ellis/Audubon/Minden Pictures)

Problem is the waters of Calcasieu Channel and the neighboring Gulf are horribly murky and a dark grey bottlenose dolphin pretty much is here and gone – a glimpse of a dorsal fin as it breathes and rolls over on the surface – but we humans cling to such fleeting things.

Occasionally the dolphins give us a real show, launching up out of the muddy tea-colored waters and become completely airborne, for moments like that I practice.  I always travel forth and back with the water exposure metered, the 100-400mm mounted on a 1.4 converter and out of sight from all other – cross my toes in silent hope and anticipation.

Most of the time the few images I do fire off are passing pelicans and diving terns – always hoping for one great flight shot, just that we bit better than anything else I have recorded.  And occasionally I get lucky – my preparation and opportunity collide.

Long before super fast focusing, stabilized telephotos I practiced – preparation in the form of endlessly chasing swinging, bouncing, rolling tennis balls around a room or backyard.  Those little balls are a great way to learn to follow, focus and shoot on the fly.  I was always pretty good, but now add the auto-focus and not too many opportunities escape.

So cruising in the Channel this day the boat guys were going on about a mythical pink dolphin seen on fleeting occasion over the past couple years.  Just as I was about to chalk this up with yetis and unicorns right behind the boat surfaces one of the most amazing creatures I have seen in decades of roaming the planet – a pink dolphin!  And not that grey-pinkish color I had seen in botos of the Amazon River, this was as bubble-gum pink as you could ever imagine.  Totally crazy!!

Instantly tossing disbelief aside I started tracking and shooting.  It only surfaced near us a couple times, but the great thing about bubble-gum pink dolphin is it glows beneath the surface of even the muddiest, murkiest cesspool.  I could actually track it as it was about surface then hold the shutter release for all its worth.  What it was worth was three sharp frames.

albino bottlenose dolphin

Opposite side view as the albino bottlenose dolphin as it lifted slightly out of the water to see us better, Calcasieu Channel, Louisiana Photo: Canon 7D; 520mm @f/8; 1/1000sec; ISO400. (Photo by Gerry Ellis/Audubon/Minden Pictures)

That was the day I realized Lombardi or Seneca were wrong – not luck, but pink is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.

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One Response to Pink is what happens when preparation meets opportunity

  1. Michael McGuire says:

    Great job Gerry! if anybody could shoot a “mythical” creature, it’s definitely you!
    Thanks,
    MM

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