Getting the Shot: Photographer Lyle Madeson
When Kelseyville, California-based photographer Lyle Madeson made plans last spring to capture images of osprey hunting spawning fish, he leaned, oddly enough, on lessons learned from a past hobby: growing hybrid flowers.
"You have to learn your subjects and their genetics," he explains. "You have to become one with them know what to expect and to increase your chances of getting the best photograph."
It was through his research that 63-year-old Madeson knew which two weeks Clear Lake’s indigenous fish would migrate to spawn and which ripples of water they'd rest in before continuing on.
He knew that the osprey would hover over those ripples before diving feet-first for their prey, undistracted by him and his 14-pound camera and tripod.
But when a successful osprey then charged at him, he didn't know what the blur was across his viewfinder when he instinctively tried to capture the head-on shot.
"These moments don’t last long," Madeson says, "But once in a while, if you hit the shutter enough, something gets in the way."
The interloping star of his untitled photograph (top), part of a 5-shot sequence that occurred in less than 2 seconds, helped make the image the Department of Fish and Game's California Wildlife Photograph of 2012.
(Madeson discloses that after the struggle between the hawk and osprey, the fish — a Sacramento hitch — kerplunked back into the water, leaving both raptors empty-taloned.)
Helped by the $200 cash prize from the competition, Lyle and his wife Deanna are taking a photographic expedition to Botswana's Okavango Delta next month. "Like raptors," he laughs, "I guess I'm also an opportunist."
Benita Hussain is a Sierra editorial intern and writer whose work has also appeared in GOOD, Women's Adventure and Matador Sports, among others. With degrees from Cornell University and Fordham Law School, she's also a part-time lawyer and yoga teacher that surfs, climbs and travels to do both. Twitter:@hussainity