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Photographer Profile – Jim Cumming (full story)

Story by Stephanie Hounsell with photography by Jim Cumming

©Jim Cumming  Kingfisher

©Jim Cumming
Belted Kingfisher

Patience and perseverance — the keys to his success

Ottawa-based photographer says he frequently waits for hours at a time in hopes of capturing that one great shot. When it happens, there’s nothing like it

For wildlife photographers like Jim Cumming, almost every day out shooting offers a lesson in patience — and a reminder of the importance of a sense of humour.

Cumming is an Ottawa, Ontario-based photographer who has been capturing mostly local wildlife since 2008. He’s used to crouching for hours in marshes or sitting for just as long among the reeds, trying to capture that shot that will make all the waiting — and countless hours of preparation — worth it.

Sometimes it happens, sometimes it doesn’t.

The day he took this photograph is one Cumming won’t soon forget. For years, he had visited a pond near his house, watching the wildlife come and go. On a few of those occasions, he had seen a kingfisher catching fish and thought it would make a great photo. But before the bird would swoop down to make its catch, it would always perch on an overhead hydro wire — not the best setting for a photograph, Cumming explains.

So he brought a long cedar log to the site and pitched it into the bank of the pond, making what he thought was an ideal perch. Cumming hoped the kingfisher would sit there and eat the fish it caught, making for a great photo opportunity.

He gave the bird a few days to get accustomed to the log, and returned full of hope. Cumming was sitting in the reeds when he heard the kingfisher’s call. He looked up to see it dive down into the pond from its overhead perch on the — you guessed it — hydro wire. It caught a fish and flew right past Cumming’s log and into the trees. This went on for five hours. Then the unbelievable happened.

“Now, sitting for hours on end and drinking my water, nature was calling for me so I got up and walked several yards away from my chair and took care of business,” Cumming recalls. “While away, I heard his piercing rattle, then looked over my shoulder to see him perched on my log eating a fish. Really?!”

He slowly made his way back to his chair, but the bird took off. With the sun setting, the day was done for this unimpressed photographer.

Fortunately, Cumming isn’t one to give up quickly. With much determination, he returned the next day. And it’s a good thing he did. “He (the kingfisher) gave me a show as he hunted for fish and flew back to my perch over and over again,” Cumming says, adding, “Patience and perseverance pay off.”

That anecdote illustrates the very nature of wildlife photography, Cumming says. One day he leaves discouraged, with nothing to download, the next he leaves bursting with excitement and a full memory card. “That’s the thrill,” he says. “But it’s not always there. You don’t get it every day. That makes it worthwhile when you finally do.”

For more information on Cumming, visit www.redbubble.com/people/darby8.

To read more of Stephanie’s interview with Jim Cumming please pick up a copy of the Summer/Fall 2017 issue or to never miss an issue SUBSCRIBE NOW!

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