Birds bathe themselves regularly in order to keep their feathers in pristine condition; for them, it's an important daily ritual just like eating.
I want every photo I take to tell a story, and in this case, the story was of this willet bathing.
If you aren't familiar with a willet, they are a very small bird, approximately the size of your balled fist. They move very fast, almost like they are constantly on fast-forward. This makes photographing a willet a great challenge, if you wait to shoot at the peak of the action, it'll be too late! To get a photo that told the story of a willet bathing, I'd have to work fast and get a little lucky.
Willets tend to be a bit shy, so getting close to one when it's vulnerable during bath time was going to be a big challenge. I setup a camp chair next to a shallow part of the marsh where I'd seen some other willets bathing and decided to sit and wait for one to approach me, rather than go searching for one. It took an hour, but finally a brave willet approached within 10 feet and proceeded to bathe.
After bathing himself, the willet took a few steps up onto a dry spot of mud to dry. He preened under his wings and then did one quick hop to flap his wings dry. Having watched other birds do this same ritual, I knew I wanted to try and get a shot of him doing this quick hop flap dry.
Luck favored me for that instant in time - not only did I get one shot, but I got three very fast images of the bird as he spread his wings to fly, in the air, and then again after landing. The whole thing happened in a blink of an eye, but I got the shot and was ready to flap my arms in happiness!
One image didn't tell the story of the hop flap dry action. You need to see all three to understand what happened, so I compiled them into one series.
My goal was to tell the story of a willet bathing, and with a little bit of luck and even more patience, I was able to tell that story.