Universal set-up

Photography is challenging and wildlife especially may be difficult to photograph well. Poor light, bad weather, a distant animal far away or facing away from you, or in front of a busy or too bright background: These all make capturing beautiful wildlife images tough. Overcoming challenges like these makes photography a rewarding pursuit.

On the other hand, sometimes it’s not as challenging. It’s almost like the universe sets up a photo-op to make things easy for you.  Like it wants you to show how pretty the animal is.  And the wildlife cooperates too!  We came across one of these gifts yesterday at Viera Wetlands.

We were driving south along one of the berms and saw a small group of Black Skimmers land on the road in the distance. These aren’t rare birds in Florida, but I hadn’t seen them at Viera before (they’re more common at MINWR). They’re unusual enough to make me take notice and they’re a bit difficult to expose well because of their coloring (white and black with very dark eyes) so I’m always looking for better photos.

We got out of the car and slowly walked towards them and I noticed several things. The birds were up on the road, so we could approach from low on the side of the berm and get them at eye level with the sun behind us. The wind was coming from the same direction as the sun, so the birds were facing into it and toward us (they like to face into the wind so they can more easily take off).  The water behind the birds provided a nice clean background.  And as we crept closer, the birds stayed calm and didn’t seem to mind us at all. 

Black Skimmer

Black Skimmer (Settings:  1/1000, ƒ/9, ISO 400, 500 mm)

We got close, enjoyed watching them, and photographed for a while.  We had time to make sure all our settings were correct.  I carefully braced my camera and lowered the ISO to get the best quality image.  I checked my exposure /  histogram to make sure the bird’s eyes were visible (difficult on this species) and the white feathers weren’t blown out.  This went on for a bit until another car came down the road.  It stopped for a minute so I had time to adjust my settings to get ready for the birds to fly.  Then it drove on, and they flew up, circled around and landed back on the road in front of us and over some wild flowers.  A perfect flight shot opportunity!

Black Skimmer in flight
Black Skimmer in flight (Settings: 1/2500, ƒ/7.1, ISO 800, 290 mm)

Be on the lookout for situations like this.  They’re truly a gift and not as common as we’d like.  Be ready.  Know your camera’s capabilities and limitations. Think through your settings and double-check your results.  Make sure you take advantage of these opportunities – when the universe sets you up and the animals cooperate.

Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog.  Now – go make some photos!

©2014, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved.

4 thoughts on “Universal set-up

  1. Fascinating to know what goes on behind great shots like these, like the raised ISO, framing considerations, etc. So thanks Ed!

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