Archives for March 2011

Taking Flight

Our afternoon shoot was at a rookery tucked behind a Harley Davidson dealership. When we first arrived, there are several nests to work with anything from young chicks, to eggs to display behavior to nest building to keep us busy…

But, it’s the fly-in that I go for. As evening approaches, the birds begin to arrive giving us both a great opportunity to capture some great flight shots… and the challenge of capturing the birds in flight as the window is quite small. We have two openings to work and by the time the birds appear we only have a brief moment to acquire focus and start shooting before they have landed. Plus the exposure challenge of shooting them against the sky for a few seconds…

before they drop down below the trees and we have the green trees as our backgrounds. It’s a good 1 stop difference between the two compositions and you are busy finding the birds, acquiring focus, getting the right exposure and panning at the right speed to make it all work. Even the a bird as large as a Woodstork is a challenge as you only have a brief moment to do all this a start clicking…

If the woodstorks are a challenge, think what it must be when an Ibis, a much smaller bird, comes in at mach speed, flies by like a white blur, flares it’s wings and lands in mere seconds from the time you spot them to the time the opportunity of past.

I have to admit that my keeper ratio when shooting at the Harley Rookery goes way down but, when I nail it, it is all the more satisfying. It certainly is a great way to hone my panning skills.

Images created with Nikon D3S, AF-S 600mm f4 VR, TC-14E II on Lexar digital media

Lake Morton

We headed inland this morning to Lake Morton where we heard there were White Pelicans and sure enough, there were a couple dozen of them in the lake. Now get this, Lake Morton is smack dab in the center of Lakeland surrounded by a busy city, with people and cars passing by a few yards away. It certainly wasn’t the wildlife experience I am normally used to but, the advantage was that the pelicans were used to people being around them and allowed us to move in closer to get tighter compositions…

They basically ignored us so, I approached even closer to get one of the adults preening as it twisted and turned in all kinds of weird positions…

And, every once in awhile they would simply take flight, circle around and come back in for a landing giving us some excellent opportunities to capture the action…

So, if you’re in Lakeland, head over to Lake Morton and play with the pelicans. It’s definitely a good way to while away a few hours.

Images created with Nikon D3S, AF-S 600mm f4 VR, TC-14E II on Lexar digital media

An Afternoon With Captain James

After a midday break to grab lunch, download cards and recharge our batteries (our batteries, not the cameras), we were back on Capt James boat headed back out to photograph the Sponbills for the afternoon. The winds had changed and were blowing from the east making for a challenging situation as the birds were landing with the sun to their backs so, we worked them as they banked to come in for a landing. I love the way you can see the tops of their colorful wings from this perspective…

The strong sidelight of late afternoon made for a more dramatic lighting. When this Spoonbill landed close by, I dialed in minus compensation to darken the background, eliminating the contrasty mangroves making the Spoonbill pop against the dark background…

Appearing unconcerned with our presence, the Spoonbill worked it’s way along the shore into the light where it paused for a bit providing us with a closeup view…

A trio of Oystercatchers were in the area working the shoreline as well and soon got used to our presence and came within photographable range. I am always on the lookout for behavior and preening is always an excellent behavior to photograph as it puts the birds in interesting poses…

When you’re in the field doing what you love to do, time flies by and before we knew it, the sun was setting. Before packing it in for the day we took the opportunity to capture some interesting silhouettes of pelicans against the orange sky…

An night approached we were back at the boat launch with our hearts and our compact flash cards filled with wonderful memories of an incredible day.

Images created with Nikon D3S, AF-S 600mm f4 VR, TC-14E II, TC-20E III on Lexar digital media

A Morning With Captain James

No trip to the Tampa area is complete without a trip out on Capt James’ boat, the Hooptie Deux II, to photograph the Spoonbills. It’s worth getting up and heading out at o’dark thirty to get there in good light. It’s prime breeding time for the Spoonbills and they are about as pink as pink can be. I love the color contrast of the pink against a blue sky…

Or, against the blue water as they fly low…

But, the real action (and challenge) is when they come in for a landing with wings flared and legs outstretched…

Images created with Nikon D3S, AF-S 600mm f4 VR, TC-14E II or TC-17E II on Lexar digital media