Pelicans on Yellowstone River. Yellowstone National Park, June 2005
One of the last photos I took in Yellowstone and one of my favorites (you'll probably need to click and enlarge it). I had just composed this scene of the sunset over the Yellowstone River -- the cheapest and easiest way to engage in nature photography, let's be honest here -- when three pelicans swooped in from the left. I saw them just in time to delay tripping the shutter* and waited until they entered the frame. Ah, and then one of them tired of the others' conversation or something, and decided to land in the river. What a stroke of fortune; the outstretched wings and the ripples from his feet breaking the water are just so much more dynamic than the river and sky, or even than the three birds in flight would have been.
Pelican flight is absolutely gorgeous and stately. They don't do aerobatics like the swallows that nest under the eaves of Lake Hotel. They don't flap frantically. They glide through the air as if on a tram, faster than hawks and eagles normally soar, more immune to buffeting breezes that bounce seagulls about. Once my sister and I were standing on the high bluff on the east side of LeHardy Rapids, looking down on the river, when a similar flight of three pelicans suddenly swooped into view below us. A video could never convey the effect; such serendipitous beauty can only be savored in the moment.
Which is to say, I hope you enjoy the photo. But it's not the same as being there.
* An unfortunate feature of digital cameras is that they take several seconds to save the digital file between each shot, unless you've set the camera to 'burst' mode. Landscapes don't usually move, even in a volcano like Yellowstone, so I didn't typically use burst mode.