Friday, August 29, 2008

Chica Chica Boom

My recent fiasco with the Buntings and Bishops sort of awakened my too complacent photographer spirit. It's time to get down to basics. Time to put into practice the principles learned ages ago. Time to look back into past experiences and benefit from them.

When I sallied forth into the Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve last Wednesday, my one and only purpose was to photograph birds. Take pictures of any bird, in any situation, then go home and determine if the resulting shots showed any progress in my abilities or not. I did not wear my birder hat that day.

It turned out to be gloomy that morning which did not daunt me at all. After all, I wanted a challenge. And what could me more challenging to a photographer than overcast skies. Right off at the boardwalk, I saw a Black-crowned Night Heron in full breeding plumage, standing motionlessly among the vegetation as it patiently waited for some unwary fish. An unmoving subject would be a good start, sort of to give my confidence a boost, I thought. I mean, how can you go wrong with a bird that stays still under gray skies? That shot went quite well.



Feeling encouraged, I moved on where I encountered a small flock of Western Sandpipers. In contrast to the Night Heron, these are tiny birds that like to scamper along the water's edge. I was now faced with the challenge of focusing at a small, constantly moving object, whose plumage blends with the watery background. Got a good shot there as well.



Farther up the trail where the tide gates are, a group of young Forster's Terns were sallying from the posts and diving into the waters hoping to grab an edible morsel. White flying birds became my next challenge. I must admit that BIF (birds-in-flight) photos are not my forte. The fact that I was using a 300mm with a 1.4 extender (which slowed the auto focusing) made me even more resolved to get these shots right. I was rewarded by a couple of fairly good captures - better than most of my previous BIFs.


But then, I thought that I got the terns when they were hovering - not exactly a BIF. When a Black Skimmer flew by and started doing its unique feeding style - cruising a few inches above the water surface with its lower beak submerged - it presented a true flying bird shot opportunity.



Not long afterward an immature Brown Pelican flew in and displayed its own style of feeding: float on the water looking for prey, fly a short distance and plunge into the water and grab the fish with its enormous bill. For a huge bird, it does this maneuver with grace and agility.



I continued to spend the rest of the morning taking shots of the various birds that I encountered. I felt that I have lived up to the different photographic challenges presented my way with some degree of success. So satisfied was I with my photography that I even switched to videography - capturing the antics of a Green Heron, some Sandpipers and a Black-bellied Plover trying to eat a clam.

Below is the video of the Green Heron. The music is titled "Ay Cosita Linda" which means "what a cute little thingy". It refers to what the heron did towards the end of the clip. :-) Enjoy!

video

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