HOW TO PHOTOGRAPH THE OGOPOGO


Ministry of Tourism once dispatched a team of experts to the wilds of Okanagan Lake. Armed with two types of sonar, assorted rechargeable batteries, a VCR and several copies of Madonna’s “Material Girl” video, they hit the lake running. Their mission: to prove whether that the legendary sea monster – the Ogopogo exists.

This is not the first time this year the sea serpent made the headlines. The Mayor of Peachland – a small community on Okanagan Lake voted itself (or at least it’s foreshore) as the official home of the Ogopogo. Since the news is short on political scandals and we don’t need to worry about that hole in the ozone layer for at least three more weeks, the time is ripe for a sea serpent to slither onto the front page.

The prehistoric living fossil has been mysteriously out of the news for about three years. Then, Kelowna car salesman Ken Chaplin became famous last summer by videotaping him. The videotape not only kindled the interest of the National Geographic Society and prime time network television. It also prompted the provincial government to declare the Okanagan Lake critter a protected species.

Despite his efforts, Mr. Chaplin could not convince the experts. UBC Reports – an alumni newsletter, suggested Chaplin’s sea serpent could be the world’s largest river otter, or perhaps a beaver. Viewing the videotape, the experts commented that the creature didn’t swim like a lizard. It swam up and down like a mammal rather than from side to side like a snake. They also stated there was no way for them to judge the size of the creature. There was nothing in the tape to provide a sense of scale.

Congratulations, Chaplin. You reported your sighting and got washed overboard by the swooshing tail flukes of a panel of experts who say, “… a tail as big as Chaplin claims it to be would have made a bigger splash.” Scientific skepticism is common. Chaplin, and I trust, the team of sonar techies, should take the criticisms in stride and see what the field of wildlife photography can offer them.

As a world famous outdoor photographer, I have years of experience photographing exotic wildlife. For example, I could have photographed the Loch Ness Monster if only I hadn’t blinked. I would have made postcards of the Abominable Snowman if I remembered to take the lens cap off. If my tent zipper hadn’t jammed, I could have snapped a Sasquatch behind my shutter.

These experiences qualify me as somewhat of an expert on wildlife photography. Photographing sea serpents is not easy. It takes the skill and reflexes of a hunter, the technical ingenuity of an astronaut, and the equipment of photographic warehouse to produce portraits of acceptable quality.

The sea serpents newly found publicity will cause people to flock to the shores of Okanagan Lake this summer. Their quest: to find the washrooms; then to try their hands at cashing in on sea serpent photography. As a professional, however, I am concerned about the standard of pictures and videotapes submitted these Brownie-snapping neophytes. In the interests of preserving dignity in professional wildlife photography, I offer three tips to help you take that million dollar snapshot.

1) Camouflage yourself

Take a tip from hunters and make yourself invisible to the sea monster by blending into the environment. Okanagan Lake has many popular sandy beaches and warm summer temperatures. Disguise yourself as a sunbather. Set your beach chair in the sand at the lakeside. Spread on that tanning lotion to blend in with the crowd. If you tuck all your equipment into a beer cooler and wrap a towel around your telephoto lens, you can scan the lake without the sea serpent suspecting that …

“Hey! What do ya think your doin’ with that camera, dude?

“Why, I’m a world famous wildlife photographer, and I’m taking pictures of that Ogopogo out there.

“I think your after wildlife all right. I think your takin’ pictures of my girl friend.

“No, I’m …

“Come on, pervert. Gimme that thing.

Drop. … Tinkle.

2) Taking The Perfect Picture

Many photographs will be returned with the comment that the subject is actually a loon break-dancing in the milfoil. There is nothing in the picture to provide the judges with a sense of scale. To include scale in your picture, you need to send something of a known size out next to the critter before you get it to say cheese.

Have your son swim out to the monster with a mask and snorkel. The judges will be able to compare the monster’s size with that of your son – unless your son is doing an imitation of twenty tons of loons.

Your son should insure that the monster doesn’t get his flippers on the mask and snorkel. Nothing can ruin the integrity of a scientific photograph faster than having a sea serpent in the middle of the frame showing off with skin diving equipment.

3) Composition: Your Key To Success

So often, that perfect snapshot of the Ogopogo returns from the darkroom as a mere speck in the middle of the frame. To correct this, you need to lure that monster closer to your lens.

Music Music is a good method of accomplishing this, and this is where the Madonna video comes in. I saw it last week. The way she rippled and flexed her biceps while singing the chorus will arouse the sea monster’s natural curiosity, causing him to slither a few feet from shore – well within camera range.

That Discovery Channel tune will have the reverse effect.

You and me baby aint nothing but mammal,

So let’s do it like we do on the Discovery Channel

Wildlife is sexually conservative. A video like this will cause the animal to leave you in the wake of a rooster tail bigger than the one left by the Fast Cat ferry on the Horseshoe Bay – Nanaimo run.

If you can’t get the subject closer to the lens, you can use decoys to lure your lens closer to your subject. Try your hand at constructing a sea serpent of your own out of papier mache, chicken wire, and a truck innertube. Be sure to build it sufficiently large to hide inside. This will allow you take all those fascinating shots of the creature’s courtship behaviour for the Discovery Channel.

If you are a particularly good sculptor, you can fool other photographers into thinking that yours is the real thing, thus leaving the genuine article to your expert shutter snapping. Be sure to adorn your decoy with some sort of trademark of your handiwork that shows up on film – just in case your decoy looks better than the original.

It would be frustrating to have that million dollar contract awarded by National Geographic for a picture of a sea serpent with its innertube showing – unless, of course that picture is yours.

By now you will realize that professional wildlife photography is a very complicated business. There is so much to remember to take that award winning picture. In fact, you may as well pack away your camera right now. The old master here has that perfect shot in the darkroom, and I’m about to develop it. I can just smell that money. I’ll just take the film out of the canister like this … and

… HEY!

… WHO TURNED ON THE LIGHTS?

Mike Broderick is an Employment Specialist for the Neil Squire Society in Burnaby where he finds employment for people with physical disabilities. Part of this work means affiliation with the Vancouver Board of Trade where he is a member of the Ambassador Club, the Burnaby Board of Trade where he is a member of the Labour Task Force, the Tri Cities Chamber of Commerce where he is an active member of the 10X10 initiative, and the Abbotsford Chamber of Commerce. He also does some work as a field Archaeologist. He is also a fitness instructor and frequent contributor of fitness humour articles to alive magazine, and the proprietor of The Résumé Doctor in Port Coquitlam. You can reach him at home at  michael_broderick@telus.net or at michaelb@neilsquire.ca.

If you’re looking for a change, start with a resume makeover at competitive rates

When he is not doing all this he lives in Port Coquitlam with his partner Cecelia

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One Response to “HOW TO PHOTOGRAPH THE OGOPOGO”

  1. Wanda Argersinger Says:

    Loved it Mike. We don’t have anything like that in my neck of the woods. Well, perhaps you could do some great photographing of a bunch of rednecks but who would pay for that. The show is free.

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