"Gentle Care" - The Story Behind the Shot


A beautiful July morning - very very early - just a few minutes after sunrise - no one else on the lake.
A bit overcast - quite calm. Overcast - perfect! Soft, even light with no harsh shadows. Perfectly calm conditions - awesome. Ideal for getting great reflections. These are the ways a photographer thinks before setting out on a photo adventure!

The baby loons were due to hatch any day out there on my favorite lake. My hope was to find one and maybe capture some images of the parent feeding the chick. The first early days of a baby loon’s life are risky. The chick is not yet able to dive (a loon’s secret weapon) and evade predators. So finding the baby during that time period translates to better images. The baby floats on the surface like a fishing bobber and parents grab small stuff from the lake bottom for those first early meals of small food. Because the food is so small the parent must present each morsel carefully and gently. I had observed this behavior many times and always dreamed of capturing that moment of exchange between eager baby and gentle parent.

As I steered the boat out from my pier I had questions. Was the baby hatched yet? Were the parents feeding the baby somewhere on the lake? Were these perfect conditions going to hold up? I knew a secluded little bay where the loons just might be feeding. Instead of using my gas motor, I turned on the electric motor and slowly moved towards the bay, hoping that my hunch was right.

On this particular morning, I had guessed correctly. As I approached the bay, I could see a small brown shape on the surface - the new baby! The loon mom popped up at that moment and glided in to deliver a small treat. My heart was pounding just the same as if I had hooked a big fish. Here was my chance to try and capture that exchange moment. So I began shooting, getting low in the boat, using the boat seat as a stabilizer and shooting the exchanges. Mom would dive, pop back up and deliver, and then dive again. 

I really kept my distance so as not to disturb the birds. As I was shooting, I thought there might have been one or two shots that could be thrillers not just fillers. When I got back to my cabin, I discovered one shot, one shot that made all the hard work so worth it. Somehow I had captured both the eagerness of the chick and the gentleness of the parent. The image I had been visualizing for so long had finally become a reality.

I submitted this image to Lake Superior Magazine in 2021 and received 1st place in the Nature category.