Here is a handful of photos that I have taken
|Great Spotted Woodpecker in a Neighbours Garden|
|Brown Hare caught on a Morning Walk|
|Sand Martin collecting Mud to Build a Nest|
The big trip of the last two weeks has to be Thursdays outing to the Isle of May National Nature Reserve in the Firth of Forth.
Five of us from the NE Scotland branch of the Scottish Ornithologists Club left Aberdeen at 7.00am to get the 9.30 sailing from Anstruther to the Isle of May. That meant I had to leave home before six to make sure I was in Aberdeen on time. All these birding trips seem to involve getting up a Silly o' Clock!
The boat, the May Princess was packed with a hundred people wanting to visit this magical island. Most were going for the natural history of the island. We were told on the crossing it was home to 46,000 Puffins. Many of the passengers were armed, like me, with cameras as well as binoculars. Needless to say I was 'out lensed' by many of them. Other passengers were there for the rich Human History of the island.
|Coming in for the Kill|
|Arctic Terns on the Attack|
|Arctic Tern with a Sand Eel|
|Puffin with Sand Eels|
|Not this one. Wings are a little awkward|
|Better but still not right|
|What about one without showing the wings. Background is a little fussy.|
|This one might do|
|This is the one|
Getting a shot of a Puffin in flight with Sand Eels is a different matter. One of a puffin in flight is not too difficult.
This one has Sand Eels but is not sharp
The shot I didn't get was the classic one of a Puffin coming towards the camera just about to land so its undercarriage (feet) is down and with a beak of Sand Eels. I did try but they were all out of focus. The bird is coming forward quicker than the auto focus. The only way I can think of to get the shot is to have a camera with a high burst rate. Mine at 6 frames a second is too slow. There must be good light so you can get a fast shutter speed in order to freeze the movement but still have a low ISO to maintain picture quality and get a decent depth of field to ensure all of the bird is sharp. The image above had a shutter speed of 1/1600 of a second and the wings are still blurred. You have got to be sure where the bird is going to land so you can set up the camera on a tripod and pre-focus then using a remote shutter get the burst of images as it flies towards the camera. Hopefully one of the shots will be in focus, if not repeat the process. Finding the right spot for this may be tricky. The Puffins land into the wind and from what I saw onto a cliff top that already has Puffins making it difficult to separate subject bird from the rest. Here are a couple of my attempts at that classic shot.
Some of the same problems occur when trying to photograph the Terns in flight. Stationary Terns don't present to much of a problem. Getting the eye to standout from their black cap needs to be addressed.
In flight it is different. Their flight path is much less predictable than the Puffins and above your head so using a tripod is not really an option. As with Puffins the classic shot is one with the bird coming towards you, but in attack mode rather than with food. Whether it was my preference or the birds behaviour I don't know but most of my shots have the sun behind the bird. This produces dark shadows. While these can be lifted in Lightroom (other imaging software is available) I did wonder whether fill-in flash would have been useful or even ethically the right thing to do. Generally I am not in favour of using flash for wildlife photography.
With only just over two hours on the island and this being my first time. There was not enough time to work out all the solutions, even if I had taken all my gear. The other option for photographing these birds was to go for the comic....
|Puffins on top of a Bird Watching Hide|
|'Peek a Boo' Puffin|
.....or the experimental
|Arctic Terns en mass. Taken with a slow shutter speed 1/10th sec. and panned|
One well known bird/natural history photographer was staying on the island as a volunteer at the Isle of May Bird Observatory. He would have been able to find time to get things right.
While the flatter parts of the island was taken up with Puffins, Terns and Gulls the cliffs held different species. Here are a few of them
|Shag and Chick|
|Lesser Black-backed Gull Chick|