The osprey is a bold, vocal and athletic bird. In Florida I enjoy watching them soar, pluck fish out of the water and return to the nest to feed the young. This week I aimed my camera lens at one osprey while it was looking for fish in a lake. Then I combined four images into one composite showing the same osprey in flight in four positions.
During the Covid-19 pandemic when our mobility is suddenly limited, I think about the enviable mobility of the birds around us. Here in Florida, we often see brown pelicans soaring through the sky and flying low across the Gulf of Mexico. For birds, mobility equals escape from danger, or the slightest perception of danger. Wouldn’t it be nice if we could fly away from the virus that threatens our health right now?
Pelicans are fun to watch. They fly in V-shaped formations with numbers ranging from 3 to 20 or more. They are silent, and they never bother people, given us the impression that they are gentle creatures.
When they forage for fish, they fly close to the surface of the water and then make a steep climb and nosedive to stun the fish with their beaks. Then, they scoop up the fish and a gallon or more of water with their stretchy pouch. Keep watching to see them tip up the beak and swallow the fish whole.
There is something bold and brave about the face of a Bald Eagle, don’t you think? When that eagle is flying straight at you that courage and confidence are especially evident.
Leaving the nest to find some fresh prey, mother eagle will soon return to feed her youngster, who has grown nearly as large as its parent and is nearly ready to fledge at 10-11 weeks.
Watching and waiting for this Great White Egret to take off, I was rewarded by this sighting of outstretched white wings. With my Nikon camera shutter set at 1/1000 second, I was prepared to capture this image to share with you.
Since I also set my Nikon D800 on “continuous-high,” I have two more great frames to share. You can help me decide which one is best. I will submit one or two of these photos to the Royal Poinciana Members’ Photography Contest. The submitted photos have to be shot on the property.
On my recent visit to Shark Valley in Everglades National Park, I challenged myself to photograph the Great Egret and the Great Blue Heron in flight. Both wading birds are large and beautiful while standing still or wading in the shallows, but their look is entirely different when they take flight and display their enormous wing spans.
My friend Caroline, who accompanied me on this 15-mile bike trip, noticed the exquisite silence around us as we observed the birds and watched them fish and eventually take flight. I needed to keep my lens focused on the bird, as without warning and without a sound, it would take flight. If I looked away, I would be too late to capture take-off. Freezing action and maintaining focus on the egret in flight was a serious challenge!
Here is a series of three photographs taken in quick succession. I enjoy the brilliant feathers from each angle.
This sequence of photographs of the Tricolor Heron in the morning light show his feathers from many angles. Such a delicate creature..
It’s certainly a challenge to photograph birds in flight. Your shutter speed must be fast enough (1/1000 second) and your depth of field sufficient to keep the birds in focus (f/20), as they won’t stop for you to capture your photograph. I used an ISO of 800 on a bright sunny day, to allow me to shorten the shutter speed and dial down the aperture. It helps if the birds are flying roughly parallel to your focal plane, rather than toward or away from you. And it takes practice. These beautiful birds look amazing as they come in for a landing, too.
These two White Pelicans flying low and in unison as they come in for a landing remind me of the U.S. Navy Blue Angels performing in a summer air show. As a spectator, I find myself entranced by the tight formation and flying agility.
Having captured this moment in a photograph, I realized that the simple yet striking composition and blue/white color combination would translate well into an oil painting. So, I used my digital paint box to create my best rendering. What do you think?
If I were a painter of an angel’s wings, I would imagine the ethereal wings of angels to resemble those of the Great White Egret in flight.
Recently in the Florida Everglades, I shot a series of images of this blue heron as it took off and landed. I was pleased to see this magnificent bird with its wings outstretched. In order to freeze motion of wildlife, I usually increase the ISO on my camera making the sensor more sensitive to light. That way, I can still get a good exposure with a very fast shutter speed of 1/1000 of a second. In this case, I increased the ISO to 2000, anticipating the bird’s flight. (I was just explaining this formula to my daughter who will be traveling to Africa to enjoy a safari in a few days.)
I also made a conscious choice for the f stop setting. A lens is usually at its sharpest in the mid-range (f/7.1 here), and the depth of field is forgiving — keeping the bird in focus for the split second between the time I focus and the shutter releases. Had I opened the lens aperture wide (to counter balance the fast shutter speed), it would have been very difficult to keep the flying bird in focus. You can see, the image is successful, as long as you don’t mind a little grain, resulting from the high ISO. I will share some of the other photos in the series in subsequent blog posts.