On Sunday December 15th I visited one of my favorite locations for photographing waterfowl. White Lake channel to Lake Michigan usually remains open when the lake freezes over and that’s where I often find one of the densest concentrations of waterfowl during the year.
It was deceptively calm with light snow falling at my home in the woods. By the time I was on my way along the southern shore of White Lake with a view to the west, the channel end of the lake was obliterated by horizontal snow. I decided to continue simply out of foolish curiosity.
When I arrived at the parking area next to the White River Light Station, the snow had decreased enough to lure me out of the warm car. There were hundreds of waterfowl present. I would have drooled at the photo opportunity but it would just have frozen to my chin. The wind was so strong I had difficulty holding my camera still. I set it on aperture priority at f5.6 and increased the ISO setting to 1000. That gave me a shutter speed of around 1/1000 to 1/2000 of a second. Then after a few shots the camera battery decided that this was not a nice place to work and abruptly resigned. I had to take my gloves off to get the spare battery out of my pocket and into the camera and by then my hands were too cold to feel the camera. I had to retreat to my car in the parking lot to warm them back up before returning to the channel.
There were many Canada Geese, a variety of ducks dominated by a very large flock of Goldeneye, a few Mute swans and some Tundra swans that had apparently been bumped from their flight south. The small group of Tundra Swans was all that remained of the hundred or so that had arrived in late November.
The ducks were frequently flying back and forth between White Lake and Lake Michigan, I assume in a futile attempt to go someplace warmer. I tried a few photos of them on the fly and managed a couple shots before my cheek froze to the back of the camera.
It was an invigorating twenty five minutes and I had the entire place to myself. There was obviously a good reason for that. I plan to go back when the wind chill is something above absolute zero.