Tribute to a Grandfather: How One Photographer’s 6-Year Quest Captured the Ultimate Kingfisher Dive

A sentimental journey driven by childhood memories turned into a six-year marathon for Alan McFadyen, who pursued the perfect photograph of a diving kingfisher in honor of his late grandfather.

The 46-year-old Scotsman dedicated over 4,200 hours and captured 720,000 images before finally snapping the perfect moment.

Watch the video at the end.

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Memories of observing kingfishers with his grandfather Robert Murray at a picturesque lake near Kirkcudbright, Scotland, were etched deeply into McFadyen’s mind.

Forty years later, these memories inspired him to focus his photography endeavors on this special bird, transforming a childhood pastime into a passionate pursuit.

The perfect shot: Mr. McFadyen spent six years and took 720,000 photos before he was able to capture the kingfisher’s flawless dive. Source: Daily Mail

Each year, tidal water would flood the kingfisher’s nest. To overcome this, McFadyen crafted a sustainable habitat for the birds by carving a hole in the bank and filling it with clay.

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Throughout his pursuit, McFadyen, a father of three, made numerous visits, spending about 100 days annually at the lakeside spot, patiently waiting to capture the kingfishers’ signature dive.

It took over 720,000 photos and countless hours of dedication to immortalize the bird’s flawless dive without a hint of a splash.

Before finally photographing the perfect shot, Mr. McFadyen clocked up 4,200 hours at Kirkcudbright in Scotland during his efforts. Source: Daily Mail

From his home in the Dumfries and Galloway region of Scotland, McFadyen reflected on his remarkable accomplishment: “Capturing such a shot takes a considerable amount of patience and a healthy dose of luck.

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The kingfishers dive at bullet speed, making capturing a good photo a significant challenge. I often snapped hundreds of photos in one session. While most of them didn’t meet my expectations, they represented steps toward my goal.”

Unfortunately, McFadyen’s grandfather Robert passed away in 1994, never witnessing his grandson’s success photographing the bird they both cherished.

The moment the kingfisher dove into the water without making a splash. Source: Daily Mail
The father-of-three returned a few times a week – averaging 100 days a year – to photograph the kingfishers as they dived into the lake. Source: Daily Mail
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The kingfisher’s nests would flood with water each year, so Mr. McFadyen made one by digging a hole in the bank and filling it with clay. Source: Daily Mail

McFadyen expressed his heartfelt wish that his grandfather could have seen his work, adding that his grandfather’s influence was paramount in his life, and his approval would have meant the world.

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In the future, McFadyen plans to continue his journey with the kingfishers, saying he finds solace and joy at this special lakeside spot.

His ultimate dream is for his eight-year-old son Leighton, who recently spotted his first kingfisher, to continue his legacy.

The photographer believes his perfect kingfisher was an adult female around two or three years old. Source: Daily Mail
His love of kingfishers came from being taken to Kirkcudbright as a boy by grandfather Robert Murray 40 years ago. Source: Daily Mail
Visiting twice a day, about 100 days a year, Mr. McFadyen would usually shoot around 600 pictures per session. Source: Daily Mail
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‘I felt very proud as my grandfather brought me up as if he was my dad, so it really meant a lot,’ – Mr. McFadyen on his great achievement. Source: Daily Mail
Mr McFadyen would sit in a photography hide he built himself for around seven hours each day, trying to get the elusive shot. Source: Daily Mail
The kingfishers’ speed at diving into the water has been described as ‘like a bullet’ by the 46-year-old snapper. Source: Daily Mail
Before he built them a new nest, Mr. McFadyen said 70 percent of the kingfishers would die due to flooding or not knowing how to dive. Source: Daily Mail
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Female kingfishers sat on a perch around four feet above the water and would only dive three or four times a day, Mr. McFadyen said. Source: Daily Mail
Despite finally getting the ‘perfect’ shot, Mr. McFadyen said he had no plans to give up photographing kingfishers at the lake. Source: Daily Mail

Watch the video below:

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