August 10, 2012

These days I think about each documentary film shoot as a “rendezvous with destiny.” I might want one thing, but often, nature hands me something else. That’s what happened on our recent production trip to the Pacific Northwest, where I wanted shots of pelicans flying from the ocean to the Columbia River, the northernmost stop for many of them on their northward migration. I did get those shots, but Fate or the gods or whoever plans these things gave me two other sequences that I’ve been hoping to get for years.

We set up the camera on a wildlife viewing platform at the confluence of the Columbia River and the Pacific Ocean the afternoon of July 24. It happened to be high tide, the sun was out, and small fish were schooling in the ocean near the platform. Hundreds of cormorants, Caspian terns, and pelicans were diving, eating, fighting, resting, flying – the feeding frenzy I’ve wanted for years! We got some nice slow-motion footage of pelicans literally dropping from the sky like rain. It’s hard to pull a good still photo from this footage, because the magic is in the motion, but here’s one anyway.

Feeding Frenzy

The next morning we set up on the same platform in completely different conditions: low tide, grey skies, no fish, no feeding frenzy, BUT there were surfers and a paddle boarder heading out into the waves, and lines and lines of pelicans flying north. I was able to get my longed-for surfing sequence that day, completely unexpectedly. It looks like a ballet.

Paddle Boarder and Pelicans


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