Friday, February 2, 2007

Flying Birds of Florida

Friday, February 2, 2007
A wood stork flew past me so close that I heard its wings before I saw it! Could not fit it into the frame, either.

With a new camera rig comes all kinds of giddy expectations. Now I'm not expecting to be Artie Morris, Art Wolfe, or even Art Garfunkel, but I DO expect to take better photographs with better gear.

Not so fast my friend.

Digital Photography Rule #13 clearly states:
No matter your perceived level of proficiency in photography, you WILL BE HUMBLED when photographing flying birds.

We've seen my shutterbuggery on still, cooperative birds with the camera set on BURST.
Well, amigos y amigas, it gets worse.

I really, really wanted to create jaw-dropping images of flying birds. So I set the camera on the aforementioned BURST. Click it over to the AV setting, which must stand for AVIAN, which is my subject matter after all. Then, I put the ISO "film" speed on 400 to capture motion.

All set right? Nope.

It's WAY harder to get the 300mm lens on a moving bird than I thought it would be. Even with three-plus decades experience aiming binoculars and scopes at birds, I found that I STUNK at finding the bird through the lens/viewfinder. And getting the camera to focus on the right bird bits.

Our last night in FL we finally had the kind of sunset where the roseate spoonbills would look fabbo, so several of us trekked on out to the Black Point Wildlife Drive at Merritt Island NWR to try our luck. Or lack thereof.

I felt like I was playing a game of pin the lens on the spoonbill. I was twisting and turning and getting buck fever and taking lots of shots of empty sky. This made me respect the truly gifted bird photographers out there all the more. And it made me curse them, too--but in a nice way.

I'd love to blow your mind with a gallery of quit-your-day-job-and-become-a full-time-bird-photographer images. But instead I'll just share these with you. A few are not so bad, I think. In the spirit of full disclosure, I need to say that these were taken over three separate days.

Any tips on in-flight photography are welcomed here. If you share them, I promise to leave you out of the cursing when I get my next chance to take pix of flying birds.

A willet landing along the Merritt Island causeway, showing off all field marks.

A ring-billed gull splashing down in the personal space of a lesser scaup.

Royal tern cruising the Cape Canaveral National Seashore. They do not have to pay $3 to get in. I did.

A brown pelican gives me the hairy eyeball as it flies overhead.

This white ibis was just flying by me, withing camera range. Then, it did something interesting...

It preened its wing in flight! How cool!

Sorry folks, I did not get any decent shots of flying spoonbills, so this will have to do.


On February 2, 2007 at 10:08 PM Mary said...

Awesome photos, BOTB. I have strugged with the flitting and flapping of cardinals and other feeder birds. I'm very impressed! Thanks for those incredible birds in flight.

On February 2, 2007 at 10:46 PM Trixie said...

Great preening shot, it must have had an itch.

On February 3, 2007 at 1:28 AM Susan Gets Native said...

So what if you're not perfect, Bill? It's nice to watch you try.
And we all can learn from your trials.
Liked the itchy pic.

On February 3, 2007 at 8:23 AM Anonymous said...

Imagine if you had to pay for the film!

On February 3, 2007 at 9:30 AM wengchun said...

well, nice pix. of course, photography is never easy but can be improved from time to time with more familiarisation with the equipment you have.

On February 3, 2007 at 3:39 PM katdoc said...

I don't know if this would help or not, but what about trying to anticipate the bird's flight and pre-focusing on a spot just ahead of it? Let the bird come to you, so to speak.

I assume you know how to pan, but I know that is hard enough with things on the ground (dogs, horses, cars, etc.) I have never tried panning a flying bird.

Of course, my digital photography sucks, so what do I know. I was just starting to get good in film, and this new medium has its own learning curve.


On February 5, 2007 at 10:55 AM Rondeau Ric said...

I've seen fantastic photos taken with very expensive equipment and thaought, if only I had that gear I could take photos like that.

Now I know better.

It's the journey that counts, it's the journey that counts.....
fuzzy pics are okay, fuzzy pics.....

On February 6, 2007 at 9:03 PM Anonymous said...


Nothing irks me more (well, ok, lots of things irk me, but this is one) than when somebody compliments a photo I took and follows it with, "You must have a great camera."

It's not the camera, it's the photographer behind it that counts.

Of course, they don't the 101 photos I threw out to get one keeper. With digital, I waste less paper! Still have a very, VERY long way to go, though.


On May 15, 2008 at 6:09 PM Anonymous said...

Great shots. If you go down Rockledge in Cape Canaveral there is plenty of free parking and beach access. Saw a pink Ibis on the beach today. Wish I had a camera like yours!