As I mentioned in my previous post, I had placed my full attention toward shooting the terns as they were diving. I sat down along the path so I could brace my elbows on my knees as I followed the birds. After we finished, I looked down and saw this young gator sunning itself less than 10 feet from my legs. Holy XXXX, did I jump. Even though the area had warning signs about alligators, I had not even thought about it when I sat down. My eyes were on the birds in the sky, not at the water’s edge in front of me. That is the rest of the story.
How many times have I focused on capturing an image without paying attention to what was around me. This is truly a lesson learned! Be safe out there!!!
Now things really get tough. Capturing a diving tern is not easy. They dart changing directions constantly as they fly looking for little morsels in the water. Once they see something, they dive at 1000 miles per hour (or so it seems). To catch a dive, I had to actively follow the bird as it darted above, keeping it in focus. Then as soon as it makes a motion down, I start shooting and drop my camera to the water as fast as I can. My camera shoots at 10 fps and I still caught only a couple of dives in the 250 images I shot. We shot for about a half an hour. I was exhausted from the concentration that I had exerted. I was ready to quit. But this is not the end of the story. Wait for my next post …
Now things are getting a little more difficult. The heron’s flight path was erratic and now I had to worry about timing and composure within the frame. Here, I was trying to capture a specific action of the male landing to bring the female branches to make a nest. I made a lot of errors including not leaving enough room at the edges of the frame. Many of my images clipped the wings of the heron as he landed. Also, I had a difficult time focusing on the main subject. There were many other things going on around me and I would try to capture them as well. I missed several opportunities to capture special actions of this couple.
There is also a little story behind these two love birds. Even though the male was working hard to bring the female twigs for the nest, she was not very faithful. When he would fly to get more twigs, another male would fly in and “do its thing”. The first male would quickly fly back to chase the second one away. It was rather comical to watch their behavior.
This and several other Wood Storks helped me practice panning to follow their flight patterns. These storks would fly from one set of trees to another set of trees about 500 – 1000 yards apart. I was on a hill positioned at right angles to their flight path. All I had to do was to pick up their flight from one set of trees and follow it to the other set of trees. Their flight path was straight without any erratic moves. All I had to worry about was the correct exposure, shutter speed to freeze action, and achieving the initial focus. Pretty easy …
This guy walked right in front of me. I had to back up to achieve focus. The Orlando Wetlands Park was like walking in open zoo. It was a great place to practice bird photography. My next challenge was to try to capture birds in flight. This turned out to be quite a bit more difficult and a subject for future posts.
I thought I would try my skills doing a little bird photography at the Space Coast Bird Festival in Titusville, Florida this year. These two sandhill cranes made it really easy as they leisurely walked right in front of me. Later on, one walked only about 10 feet in front me (subject of a future post). They are beautiful and graceful creatures. I plan to try to capture them during their mating phase near Othello, Washington later in March.