Watching and waiting, and watching and waiting some more is a practice that is rewarding in wildlife photography. As you will see here, some behaviors happen so fast, that a photographer will only capture them if he or she is already poised to shoot.
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.
I have often tried to photograph the Brown Pelican in action: taking off, landing, flying, fishing but they are so fast moving that it is difficult to track, focus and release the shutter in time to capture a crisp image. But you know what they say: stick with it, and “luck comes to the well prepared” photographer.
I have always loved the Brown Pelican, because their grace belies their large stocky body, and they are quiet birds who frequent the beach. It is fascinating to watch them dive-bomb fish by careening straight down into the ocean to stun the fish and later scoop them up in their large beak, letting the whole fish glide into their ample pouch.
This bird photography adventure took place at the J. N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge on Sanibel Island, Florida.
Word on the street is that these White Pelicans migrated to Florida from the Great Lakes region. Anyone who has driven that distance can appreciate how long that journey is. While they have flown a long way from home, they enjoy huddling together, wing to wing, beak to beak on this sunny evening.
After breakfast, at low tide and warmed by the sun, these white pelicans decided conditions were perfect for a morning nap. Until one male pelican arrived and cried out to all of them, “Wake Up!”
The J.N. Ding Darling Nature Preserve on Sanibel Island, Florida is a wonderful place to observe the White Pelicans, Great Egrets, Great Blue Heron and Roseate Spoonbills in the winter months.
These White Pelicans can fly and float anywhere they like, but they all seem pretty happy to crowd onto a tiny sandbar, wing to wing with one another. This image shows only a third of the line of white pelicans gathered at J.N. Ding Darling Nature Preserve on a sunny Sunday morning.
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?