Bringing Color to the Shadows

The start of every wildlife photography outing is overshadowed by doubt. Will I see anything today? Will the wildlife come to me? There is a great deal of luck involved in success: while we plan for weather, the angle of the sun and the tides, we don’t control the wildlife. We just pray for it.

The other half of the success equation is preparedness. How often do we go out there? I tell myself that I won’t see anything staying home or sleeping in! How good is your equipment? How well do you use it?

On my last trip to Sanibel Island, Mother Nature gave me a gift. The sought after Roseate Spoonbills were feeding at low tide in the shadows of the mangroves. I was there with my Sony mirrorless camera, a 600mm lens and a tripod. All the pieces came together.

The pink plumage of the roseate spoonbill brings a splash of color to the shadows of the mangrove in Sanibel Island, Florida. Ding Darling Wildlife Refuge.

I delight in the pink hues of the Roseate Spoonbill’s plumage. In this photo the splash of pink contrasts the dark shadows of the surrounding mangrove and water.

Portrait of a Roseate Spoonbill

“Okay, perfect. Now, stand up straight with one foot in front of the other, step into the sunlight, look at me, and hold it right there.” Snap!

If only a wild bird would follow directions like that! If only a beautiful roseate spoonbill would show up when you go out with your camera hoping to capture something interesting. In the wild, the photographer shows up often and prepared with know how and good equipment hoping that the birds and the events will happen someday.

When it is time to process a digital image, some experience with Adobe Photoshop and Lightroom comes in handy. I was grateful to be prepared when this Roseate Spoonbill and I met at Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary.

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I could not have posed you any better, Roseate Spoonbill. Thanks for looking at the camera and stepping into the light.

Roseate Spoonbill Lift Off

If you can capture a photograph of a Roseate Spoonbill when it spreads its wings to take flight, you are in for a visual treat even better than a strawberry parfait. You need to steady your lens on the bird, focus, make sure your shutter speed will freeze motion and wait.

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Roseate spoonbill spreads its rosy wings to lift off the fence railing just a few feet from me.

These large wading birds are quick, so you must anticipate their take off. The Spoonbill’s motion parallel to the focus plane helped this image work. My settings on the Sony a7rII are ISO 1250, f /5.6 (pretty wide open lens to let in more light), 244mm, and 1/2500 second shutter speed. A higher resolution image is available on my website in the Florida Gallery: www.cathykellyphotography.com.

Putting the Rosy in Roseate

I’m captivated by the light and dark pink wings of the Roseate Spoonbill. When I find one feeding, I track it with my camera for a several minutes and try to snap an image when the bird opens its wings to hop over a log or something. When the wings open, you can see so much more color.

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Roseate spoonbill sweeping its bill through the swamp to feed. I try to capture images of the bird with open wings when I can.

I was curious what makes the bird such a beautiful shade of pink, so I did a little research. Like the flamingo, the roseate spoonbill gets its pink coloration partly from the food it eats, such as the crustaceans that feed on algae. Typical food for the roseate spoonbill includes small fish, shrimp, mollusks, snails and insects. (Source: Nature Works website.)

I’ve notice that the roseate spoonbills are social birds like their relations, the ibis. Both species feed in groups. When I observed this bird in Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary near Naples, Florida, it was one of about eight birds feeding together. While the “Ding Darling” Nature Preserve in Sanibel Island is known for sightings of the spoonbills, I was not lucky enough to see them there this year (2018).