It Takes More than Once

Wildlife photography is quite a challenge. A major part of the challenge is the accessibility and cooperative nature of your wildlife subject. Frequently your wildlife encounters are brief and unexpected.

So when an opportunity arises near where you live where there is a cooperative and reliable subject you should take advantage of it. It allows you to visit a number of times to try to get that perfect image.

And such as it was with some Tundra swans and I. In previous years, I was given the gift of access to a flock of overwintering Tundra Swans on the Chesapeake Bay. I squandered that gift. Taking it for granted, I rarely went and when I did I go, I went without an objective in mind nor did I really pay attention to the quality of light.

That flock has dissipated over the past couple of years and are most likely now on the eastern shorelines of the Chesapeake Bay. So when the chance to be able to visit a different flock on another river I promised myself that I would treasure the gift and make sure I visited more than once.

The first two visits was spent learning the lay of the land. The direction of the light, and the swan behavior. The waterfowl on this side of the peninsula are protected by the neighbors who collectively purchase all of the hunting permits for their side of the bay. And the waterfowl know it.

I have a small angle of perfect light that I want the waterfowl to float through. Patiently waiting, I see the swans fluff when I least expect it – yep..missed that shot. Reflections of the neighboring dock dances on the water bringing lively bands of color on the cold winter water.

I keep hoping that a solitary swan will float through the reflections, but I’ll take what nature gives me. A simple Mallard hen swam through the water’s dancing colors. With the perfect light behind me, I could see her smile.

A colleague friend of mine had shared with me his dissatisfaction of the color cast of the Sony system and how it seems different than the Canon system. And after some time working with the Sony A9 with the 200-600mm, I have to agree. The blues are a little off, even using Daylight White Balance. I’m frequently using a custom white-balance with Kelvin 5800 which helps, but even then. While the Sony system has a better dynamic range, I found that it really grabbed the oranges and yellows in the Tundra swans so I really had to work in post-processing to get a more accurate white.

It’s a challenge for me as I love the quiet shutter of the mirrorless system, the lightweight reach of the 200-600mm lens and the fast frames per second. But there are some things I’m not in love with. Like the softness of the lens, and the loss of detail on the whites. In spite of me adjusting exposure to get rid of the “Zebras.”

The next visit, which I hope will be very soon, I’ll have the chance to go back to my favored Canon gear. Although using the 5D Mark IV seems dinosaur slow after shooting with the Sony. I may just have to bring out the loud shuttered 1DX II to see how that goes.

As they say..practice makes perfect. So if there ever is an opportunity that you can count on photographically…..go..and go back again!

3 replies »

  1. Great post all around. It’s easy to always think that because something is close you will by default make use of it. I feel your pain!

    But these photos are lovely. I really like the lighting effects on the first swan, the Mallard hen and Mallard. Those are my favorites in that order. The first swan has the appearance of a conductor or performer under the spotlight. And the colors around the Mallard hen accentuate her own. Meanwhile the Mallard himself appears to be working the light between his wings.

    How cool that the neighborhood buys up the permits! Wow, heck yeah!


    • Hi LP ! So wonderful to hear from you. How you would love being able to sit and watch the swans. Their calls are so unique and they can be graceful and also vicious. Truly appreciate your thoughtful and well written compliment. You always amaze me with your prose. I hope all is well with you.

      • Aw thanks, you’re kind. I like to give feedback and engage with posts, especially those I really enjoy. I don’t always get around to reading people’s new posts but when I do I try to really get my mind with it and share my reaction. ๐Ÿ˜€ Your work is beautiful, something I always get satisfaction from. I’m glad you’re still kicking some butt.

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