Once in a while, conditions are just right. Low water levels force fish into small pools and birds flock to the spot to feed. When you can get close to a scene like this early in the morning, with soft golden light from the rising sun behind you – count your blessings!
This happened to me at Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge a week ago (2/9/18). I lucked into seeing a bird feeding frenzy along Black Point Wildlife Drive. It’s always a treat to watch and photograph these. I’ve written about them before (see this post from December of 2012). Here are some observations. / hints that may help you in a similar situation:
- The birds all compete for food. Watch for interactions and squabbles – they can lead to great poses and action shots.
- Since the birds are very focused on the fish they’re more tolerant of close photographers. Be quiet and move slowly so you don’t stress them.
- They’ll be constantly coming and going and moving in the pond. Watch for good compositions as they shift around.
- When they fly in, you can often track them as they get closer and land in the pools for some great images. After a while you’ll be able to anticipate their paths.
- As the birds land, they’ll be low and close to you – great for eye level BIF photos (BIF = Birds in Flight)!
- You’ll need to balance zoom level, composition, background, exposure, focus, etc. And conditions change rapidly. Set up your camera in advance and be nimble. I have a BIF preset programmed so I can quickly shift to it when needed. It shoots at 10 frames / second with continuous focus, large focus area, and higher ISO settings to keep my shutter speed high. You’ll need 1/1000 sec. exposures (or shorter!) to freeze wing motion.
- A white bird against a dark background vs. a dark bird against the sky will require exposure compensation adjustments. I have EC mapped to the rear wheel control so I can easily vary it when needed.
- Your “keeper” percentage may be lower than you’re used to. But there are so many photo opportunities at a feeding frenzy that you’ll likely come home with images you like. Practice when you can and you’ll get better.
It’s not all about birds in flight. Interesting groups or poses on the shore or perched on nearby branches are also photogenic.
That was a wonderful morning. I’m glad I was able to see all the action. Oh, and before the bird activity, I also made a couple of landscape photos:
Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Now – go make some photos!
©2018, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved