Monday, November 1, 2021

Post #207 - A few recent photos

I've really struggled with the camera this calendar year. The closure of my local photo spot for major construction has been a crushing blow, and I've been reticent to travel for personal purposes during the pandemic (though that's about to change - big time). I have done some traveling while guiding for Tropical Birding, but it's virtually impossible to do my own shooting while I'm pointing out birds to clients or helping them take their own pictures. That said, I have managed a handful of decent frames around the Bay Area in recent months, and I'll use this post to present them and say a few words about each. 

First up is this Snowy Egret. I had way too much lens when this subject sauntered into my view on the SF bayshore, so a tight headshot was the best I could hope for given my proximity. The bird was very focused on a school of baitfish, but a quick whistle was enough to get it to look up for a brief moment. I'm a huge fan of the feather detail which these close-cropped frames reveal, and I find that it easy to connect with the subject when peripheral distraction is minimized, the yellow eye and lores attention-grabbing in this instance. I like this shot be because it's an uncommon look at a common bird.

NOTE: I sold my Canon 1DX Mark II and have been relying on my 7D Mark II while I raise funds to buy the mirrorless R5. It's been nice to dust off this older body and see what it can do! 

Snowy Egret - Egretta thula
Canon 600mm f/4 IS II on EOS 7D2
1/4000 at f/7.1, ISO 400

Next up is this Golden-crowned Sparrow which I intersected while birding outside San Jose. I rarely bother carrying the camera while I'm birding because I'm too focused on bird-finding and identification to worry about taking artistic photos, but I was stoked to have my walk-around rig with me when I spotted this subject at Vasona County Park. High overcast minimized midday shadows, and I consciously positioned the bird against some distant, low-hanging branches to suggest the Autumn season at the moment of capture. Sparrows don't get much photographic love, particularly in their winter plumage, so I was really happy with this colorful image of an under-appreciated species. 

Golden-crowned Sparrow - Zonotrichia atricapilla
Canon 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 IS II on EOS 7D2
1/800 at f/5.6, ISO 800

Moving right along, I'll offer this Pomarine Jaeger, an oceanic species which spends the vast majority of its life many miles from land. We regularly intersect 'Poms' on pelagic trips, but those encounters are usually transient, the powerful fliers rocketing by the boat at high speed. It was therefore very unusual that this representative spent a week frequenting a public beach in Half Moon Bay. The bird flew around a good deal on my visit but eventually put down on the sand and allowed close approach. Unfortunately, the beach was covered with ugly-ass seaweed, so I decided to go with a headshot to keep the frame clean. I never imagined I'd be so close to this striking species. The light was super muted (see next photo for explanation why), but I like how that rendered the frame more contrasty than colorful.

Pomarine Jaeger - Stercorarius pomarinus
Canon 600mm f/4 IS II on EOS 7D2
1/1600 at f/7.1, ISO 800

Now for the best one! Snowy Plovers love to hunker in human footprints along the edges of the dunes, a behavior which doesn't lend to striking/memorable photographs, but circumstances suggested that I get creative when this incredible opportunity presented post-jaeger. While some lazy, fake-ass photographers have taken to swapping-in prefabricated backgrounds instead of working to obtain a real result, this one is totally legit, it generated as the setting sun shone through forest fire smoke which had drifted onto the Pacific. Though I was hundreds of miles from the inferno, the scene was a striking reminder of the challenges California will continue to face as the impacts of climate change compound. This is a bird photograph, but it's the surrounding negative space (beach and sky) which renders the frame memorable.

Snowy Plover - Charadrius nivosus
Canon 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 IS II on EOS 7D2
1/2000 at f/5.6, ISO 800

Cheers for now!

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