Surf Scoters are usually far from shore, but I was able to float right up onto this male in my inflatable kayak. Since depth of field compresses at such close range, I closed the the lens down to f/8 (from f/5.6) to make sure I preserved focus across the face and neck. These high-contrast subjects are a real challenge in bright sunlight. It's easy to overexposure the whites or underexpose the blacks, so I was stoked to preserve feather detail at those extremes. I think he looks like an alien with that multicolored beak and white eye!
Surf Scoter - Melanitta perspicillata
Incredibly, this Bushtit frame happened without the aid of audio or food. How'd I get the bird onto such a sweet perch without crap in the background? Well, I saw a family group of ~20 picking its way through a low hedgerow. There was a break at the end where the birds would emerge, so I ran ahead of them and waited. My plan worked to perfection, and I had a quick opportunity at this bird before it flitted across the opening and disappeared into another shrub. I see this species around my San Mateo apartment almost every day, but this is the first decent photo I've managed of this tiny and highly-kinetic bird. For perspective, the bird's body is about the size of a golfball. So yeah, a hella small target!
Bushtit - Psaltriparus minimus
Canon 600mm f/4 IS II + 1.4x III on EOS 1DX Mark II
1/2500 at f/5.6, ISO 800
I have lots of shots of the Ring-neck Ducks which winter in Golden Gate Park, but I love the consistent, low angle opportunity they offer. The birds patrol Stowe Lake while looking for handouts, so it's as simple as staking out a water-level vantage, laying prone on my stomach, and waiting. That's easier said that done while holding my heavy camera, but my patience paid off when this guy cruised by at the perfect distance. You can't beat water-level bokeh/blur!
Ring-necked Duck - Aythya collaris
Canon 600mm f/4 IS on EOS 1DX Mark II
1/3200 at f/5.6, ISO 640
Last, a bit of a cheap shot. I was in a blind while leading a photo workshop in Texas in January, and food and water were used to lure a variety of local birds to an array of perfect perches (this happened at a private ranch which specializes in this sort of 'set-up' photography). It's kinda cheesy since it requires zero behavioral knowledge or stalking skill, but it's a great way to reinforce technique with clients. I much prefer shooting in the field - where shots have to be earned - but it's tough to argue with results like this, particularly when the subject is as stealthy as the Long-billed Thrasher!
That's it for now. Headed out with the camera tomorrow, so hopefully I'll have more for you in the next installment.