“Yellow-Bellied Sap Sucker”

“Yellow-Bellied Sapsucker”

“After years of honing my skills as a photographer, the phrase “Timing is Everything” still holds true.” – Ed Lehming

Over the years I have deliberately practiced preparedness. I’ve gotten familiar with my cameras and lenses. I know what each can and can’t do effectively and I have learned through many failures how to shoot in different lighting conditions, and in all sorts of weather. Why? Because unpreparedness is how once ina lifetime phots are lost.

While the photo I chose for today is not a once in a lifetime shot, it’s still very pleasing and I would not have been able to make it had I not been prepared and aware of my setup’s limitations.

I’m not generally a wildlife photographer and I don’t spend hours in wait for some of the fantastic shots made by my fellow photographers who specialize in this genre of photography have produced. I’m more of an opportunist; I like to capture the experiences that I have while out hiking or traveling. This also means I have to be ready for anything that presents itself, in this case, a beautiful woodpecker.

I had just about concluded my 6.5 km hike through Uxbridge Ontario’s, North Walker Woods, documenting the early spring blooms. I paused along the trail, satisfied with my collection of photos, took a drink of water from my water bottle, and slid my camera back into my pack, ready to hike out to the trailhead. The moment I took a step forward I heard the sound of a woodpecker calling close by. As I turned around, I saw this Yellow-Bellied Sap Sucker in a tree mere meters from me and only a few meters up the trunk, a rare occurrence. I moved slowly to get my camera out of my bag. Since I was out to shoot wildflowers, the lens was my 90mm macro lens. The nice thing with this lens is that at 90mm it does offer me some level of zoom and has an extraordinarily quick focus. Not the ideal lens for this situation, but it made the shot possible. After a few quick setting changes, I was ready to shoot.

This all took about 15 seconds and serves as an example of understanding your gear and how to react when an opportunity presents itself. In the end, I was able to get about five good shots before the woodpecker noticed me and took off. Do I wish I had my 70-200mm with me? Sure, I could have had an even better shot, but you have to work with what you have and I’m pleased with the outcome.

Nikon D800
Tamron SP AF 90mm f/2.8 Di Macro 1:1 (272ENII)@90mm

1/160 sec, f/6.3, ISO 200

For more images like this, please visit my website (images are available for purchase)

7 Comments on ““Yellow-Bellied Sap Sucker”

  1. I have missed three incredible shots that immediately come to mind regarding “timing is everything”. All with a camera in my hand.
    The first, a bald eagle dropped to the water, snatched a fish, and bore it aloft about fifty feet away from me as I stood on the shore. I snapped the shot. The only camera I had was a fixed-focus keychain camera with about 4 pixels of resolution. I can show you the light marks on the postage stamp that were an eagle’s tail.
    The second, I just shut off my Fuji Finepix after shooting the landscape. As it closed its little lens and went to sleep, I turned to see a coyote a hundred feet away, frozen when he spotted me. The five seconds it took the Finepix to open were enough for him to disappear.
    The last, most painful. I spotted a hawk fifty yards away in a tree with lovely morning light. I picked up my Nikon, ready with a 300 mm lens, and opened the window of the car as I slowed nearing the shot, powering on and checking the settings. With the camera in my hand, three seconds before I reached the spot, he swooped out of the tree right toward me, and pounced on a mouse about 25 yards from me, leaping into the air as the A-pillar blocked the shot, and flying across the road in front of me, close enough to see the rodent in its talons.

    Stay well,


  2. I am an amateur and have a LOT to learn, but I love your photos. It’s true, being unprepared has cost me more beautiful shots than I care to number.

      • Be kind to yourself Carol. We all learn from mistakes. I used to shoot 200 some odd photos and throw out about 190. Now, I shoot about 20 and throw out 15. As you become more experienced and critical in your composition you end up with way better results and less experiments.

      • I will keep trying. I love photography and every once in a while I capture something I truly love. It’s worth it for those few gems.

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