I Really Wanted the Shot


The past few weeks there have been some rare Red Necked Grebes hanging out in the Magothy River by my house. This winter has been so cold and harsh, that the great lakes froze over nearly 95%. Leaving little habitat for these grebes to winter.

These Red Necked Grebes have made it to the Mid-Atlantic region in droves, looking for more hospitable waters. I’ve been watching these grebes in my river for some time now, but they are always on the other side and it’s been either cloudy, raining or snowing.

This afternoon, the sky opened up and I could see the black dots in the water. If I wanted to get closer to the birds, the only way was to join them in the water. Dragging a canoe down to the waterline, I stepped in, with camera in hand. Still using the 100-400mm, as the 500mm has yet to return from the Canon hospital, I began to paddle upstream and upwind towards where the grebes where.

Fishermen were watching me, probably wondering what this crazy woman was doing out in a canoe chasing birds in the water. Of course, they saw me coming, and I did go upstream from them and began to float towards them.

As a bird photographer, I nearly always use Aperture Priority for my camera setting. Setting my f/stop and ISO, I let the camera decide what to do with the shutter speed. This time I decided to try Time Value or Shutter Priority. After all, supposedly other ‘experts’ prefer that method.

This image is actually a mistake. The grebes starting swimming into the light (No..don’t go into the light…!!!) and resulted in an underexposed image. Going through the 500+ images I too, I started to see the brilliance of this mistake. Adding some black and some vignetting and genius was uncovered.

I really wanted to capture the grebes closer, and closer I did. Now I can lament about missing my 500mm lens as it is such a superior lens with a little more reach. It gets back home Monday, not a day too soon for me.

Hope you’re having a wonderful weekend. πŸ™‚ Bella

22 replies »

  1. That’s what I’ve been doing wrong all these years, I heard that the experts used aperture priority. πŸ˜‰

    Actually, I don’t think that it matter which mode you were using, the effect that you got was due to the metering that the camera’s light meter read. You may want to check which metering mode your camera is set for. I use partial or full spot metering most of the time for birds, and I have to be careful not to have all my photos looking like this. It worked very well in this instance, I love that effect when it comes out that well, but it’s very hard to control without post processing.

    With lighter birds against a dark background, it’s OK, but when I shoot a dark bird in front of a light background (sky) the results are reversed and not so good.

    • I’ve started to use center weighted metering and I’m loving it. I didn’t want to give away all of my secrets now… LOL! There wasn’t much I needed to do post, just enhance the blacks a bit. Oh, backlit birds suck, there’s nothing you can do to improve those puppies. Is it starting to melt on the lakes yet?

      • Well, I don’t want to give away all my secrets, but you can salvage backlit birds if you get close, use spot metering, and go up with your exposure compensation.

        I’ll let you know about the ice on the lakes when enough snow melts for me to get to the lakes. πŸ˜‰ Actually it has begun to melt, a little.

    • It was certainly well worth the effort, and got a good arm workout too. It was run being out on the water, so kept the canoe close by the water in case I want to jump in again the next couple of days.

  2. Great job! it’s as if they’ve come out on stage to perform their duet. A well-used mistake. This is proof that it’s not always a good idea to just trash less than perfect pictures, thank you for showing us this.

    I love your effort and commitment to getting these shots, very admirable. πŸ˜€

    Cheers to Bella Remy!

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