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Southern Cassowary

Southern Cassowary (Image ID 34000)
CommentThis is one photo of 2018 that I don’t think I will ever forget taking. Every time I look at this photo I focus on the raised hairs on the back of his neck – and remember the raised hairs on the back of my neck during our encounter. I had been trying for four long days with no luck trying to find a Southern Cassowary in the hope of getting a few reasonable photos. I was in Djiru National Park and decided that I was out of luck and it was time to move on. As I drove along the gravel road out of the National Park, this Cassowary and his chick sprung out of the rainforest and commenced crossing the road in front of me – catching me completely by surprise. What followed was nothing short of mayhem! I had been told numerous times that these birds can be quite dangerous and not to approach them too close. With this in mind I had previously set my camera up with a 100mm – 400mm zoom lens – and with the Cassowary being such a big bird, I thought I would be able to keep a most respectable distance between myself and the bird. Added to this, thinking that my photographic mission had ended for the day, I had taken my hiking shoes off and slipped on my thongs.
Thinking I would only have about 5 seconds before the birds crossed the road and disappeared back into the rainforest, I hurriedly jumped out of my car and quickly walked down the road for about 25 metres and entered full photographic panic mode. The bird stopped, turned and then started running towards me. I hastily snapped off a few very quick shots and tried to make a rapid retreat to my car. Slipping on the gravel road, the top rubber of one of the thongs broke away from the base, leaving me to try and scramble back to my feet and sprint back to my car. Realising I was outpaced I decided to stand my ground. The bird slowed down and walked up very close to me. I extended my right arm fully, holding the camera out. He moved within 6 inches of the camera and then to my relief, slowly retreated with his chick back into the rainforest. I now think that he probably thought I was holding some sort of food for him.
The 100mm - 400mm lens and the close proximity of the large bird meant that I could only get a few headshots and not the complete bird and his chick which I would have liked - and as I had previously set up in the darkness of the rainforest, my ISO was set way up at 6400. In the clearing of the road I could have lowered it to say ISO 400 – but in my panic, that never happened – so I ended up with the wrong lens and wrong camera settings and a nice gravel rash.
Last year I entered a photo in ‘The Best of 2017’ competition, saying how I liked it because I had felt relaxed and had time to take a few test shots and tweak settings accordingly - and how I felt disciplined in my approach and exercised patience, waiting in my portable bird-hide. This Cassowary photo kisses all of that goodbye - and nothing but luck resulted in my few photographic mementos of my first and undisciplined Cassowary encounter.
Keywordsmale, adult
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