Sunday, December 4, 2011

A day along the shore

The day out entailed counting and identifying different gulls as we learned about localization. The common gulls for the evening were greater-black backed, ring-billed, and herring gulls. Some shorebirds also flew in for a taste.

Sanderlings as you see above and below are awfully tiny birds. If you were one of the people there watching me photograph them I had to carefully approach them to prevent scaring them. A neat technique is trying to camp out near a food source and/or use the rising tide to bring them closer to you. If you just walk right up to them chances are they will move away or fly off to another location.

Once I could get close enough to the sanderlings I began to get lower to the ground. This helps to bring the depth of field perpendicular to your subject. You don't often want your depth of field on an angle as it can bring other objects you don't want in your image into an area of acceptable focus. You can see how only the shells along his feet are in focus and the shells before and behind are blurred. It can be a very powerful technique when combined with a long telephoto (sigma -50-500mm @ 500mm) and getting as close as possible to your subject without harming or threatening your subject.

Flying past us were some prime looking greater black-backed gulls. Panning to get this sort of shot is not easy and the more practice the better. It's great to practice with common birds so you are ready for that rarity flyby. Everyone gets rusty too so you need to stay on top of it to get the shot. If you are bouncing around or not following at the same speed your subject is at a high risk of being blurry with slower shutter speeds.

Sometimes personality is everything. It can really add to an image. We as humans often personify animals and why not take advantage of that to make an image work? To some this may be an ordinary ring-billed gull or it could be that same gull strutting his stuff.

On a slightly more serious note it's always to use your photography for good when you can. Especially with wildlife and the troubles they face due to human waste. If you look closely to the leg being raised it is wrapped in mono-filament (plastic netting) that is cutting off the foot circulation (its also running down the side of his webbed foot). Standing on one foot can appear to be natural behavior on occasion, but in this case it was causing a limp and possibly death later on. So when you dispose of anything in the future consider the proper way to do it for both us and those who have to live with it when out of sight.

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