Sierra Magazine: Explore, enjoy and protect the planet.
Getting the Shot: Photographer Lyle Madeson - Explore

« Outrageously Detailed 1931 Map of Yosemite | Main | Year in Yosemite: Closure »


Getting the Shot: Photographer Lyle Madeson

Photo 2

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.  

Photo 1

"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."

Photo 3That “something” happened to be a red-tailed hawk, a bird that rarely eats fish unless it can steal it from another predator. 

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."

SIERRA HEADSHOTBenita 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

User comments or postings reflect the opinions of the responsible contributor only, and do not reflect the viewpoint of the Sierra Club. The Sierra Club does not endorse or guarantee the accuracy of any posting. The Sierra Club accepts no obligation to review every posting, but reserves the right (but not the obligation) to delete postings that may be considered offensive, illegal or inappropriate.

Up to Top