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