Despite seeing eighteen species of birds on our first afternoon in Churchill, Canada, we were able to photograph only a single bird that day. But that bird, a Greater Yellow Legs, gave me my first opportunity to put my new hip boots to use. We wear them every day, all day, when we go out and we only put on our regular hiking boots when we plan to shoot in a location where there is no tundra, a very rare thing in this arctic region. The tundra is comprised primarily of moss, lichen, and low shrubs and in the summer, the topmost layer of the permafrost melts so the tundra becomes spongy and if you’re not used to it, it’s weird to walk on. With my first steps onto the tundra, I thought I was going to sink in too deep but some areas don’t give at all and others bounce a little. I’m still getting my “tundra legs” and it is a challenge to carry my camera rig over the tundra but I’m determined to “make it work” as Tim Gunn says.
To photograph this Greater Yellow Legs as it foraged in a clear, shallow pond, we walked right into the pond which was several inches deep. We managed to walk fairly close to the bird because our hip boots allowed us to walk into the water without worrying about getting wet. We photographed this bird for almost an hour and at the end of that time, it finally walked out of the water and onto a mound of tundra so we were able to capture the bird, in full breeding plumage, in its breeding habitat.