Since 2007, Ray Hennessy has been honing his wildlife photography and, in particular, his passion for birds. Several years ago, he was looking for a way to make himself even more invisible during his photoshoots in order to capture the birds during their normal routines. That's when he came up with an ingenious floating bird hide that would allow him to immerse himself in the water while keeping his equipment safe.
In 2017, Hennessy took two boogie boards, folding table legs, and a tripod column with the legs removed and fashioned his DIY bird hide. After connecting everything using some scrap metal, he tested the design to make sure that it would support his heavier lenses, as well as his body weight.
His design has been a success, as he's not had any incidents in the time he's been using the floating bird hide. In fact, Hennessy is able to keep his lens two to three inches above the surface of the water when shooting and raise it to about one foot when he's on the move. This has allowed him to take images from a unique perspective and photograph the birds undisturbed.
“My favorite part of wildlife photography is when you get to encounter a wild animal that has no clue you are there and behaves as it naturally would,” Hennessy tells My Modern Met. “This floating hide setup has been a great way for me to experience that many times with a variety of birds. It is quite an amazing thing to sneak up on them and be right there to watch them and photograph them and they have no clue I’m there!”
While using the floating hide requires patience—as Hennessy needs to wait for the birds to arrive—the end result is well worth it. Not only has it produced incredible imagery, but it's enriched his own memories of being out in the field. For instance, his photo of a Black Skimmer flying low across the surface of the pond is one of Hennessy's favorites for several reasons. Of course, the composition and technical aspects of the photo are top-notch, but the image also brings back special memories for the photographer.
“I was in a tiny non-tidal pool in a saltwater marsh when a group of five to six Black Skimmers dropped into the pond and began fishing as they do,” he recalls. “It is always amazing to see them fly along with their thin bill slicing through the water as they try to catch fish as they fly by. This group of birds flew around me for nearly an hour and I took thousands of photos of them. At times they were flying so close to me I could hear their bills slicing through the water! It was by far one of my most memorable encounters while being in the water and one I’d love to get lucky enough to witness again in the future.”
Hennessey's floating bird hide is a wonderful reminder that with a little DIY spirit and creativity, it's possible to enhance your photography more than you ever dreamed.