Thursday, August 18, 2011

Framing a wading bird

I was on the water shortly after 7 am. This time of year is tricky with the continuous flow of storms that come in from the east (usually). Mornings tend to be drier, but the sky is never without clusters of clouds. This morning, the sky was predominantly clear, except for one big dark cloud hanging over the east horizon, right where the sun rises. It looked like it was rolling in my direction and in the distance, I could see rainfall over the city. From the looks of it, I figured there was no more than an hour before it overcame my area. I believed that I would not have much opportunity to photograph birds this morning. But that changed.

The east wind was brisk, around 5-10 knots. Now, I had two challenges; the first being the large cloud that covered the morning sun and the second was the messy water that comes with east winds greater than 5 knots. I met the first challenge by simply using my flash and better beamer. The wind would impose a greater challenge and it has to do with framing a bird in an image. The low was around 7 am and the grasses in the shallow waters were obvious along the shoreline. With enough wind and low enough tide, the water surface is interrupted with ripples and grasses; very messy scene. It's a difficult surrounding when framing a bird in the water. But, I wanted to give it a shot today.

Rather than see this as a reason for not photographing a bird, I decided to attempt some images that might make the water a pleasing part of the composition. To me, these waters in low tide look like fabric with various textures, and wouldn't it be cool if I could take what I see and use it to enhance an image of a bird. Here is one shot of a great white egret to illustrate the water conditions. I took some liberties with the photo. I played around with the channel mixer and heightened the blues of the water while masking the bird. I guess this is one version of many possibilities. Normally, I would not give this image a second thought. But, I've come to realize that the wind and tidal current are just as much a part of the beauty of this bay as are the birds.

Here is another image, this time a juvenile little blue heron. I should say that at this point (about 20-30 min into the morning), the big dark cloud had dissipated and the sun was out, with a nice diffuse haze. With perfect lighting, I continued using my flash. Now, the water was more illuminated and the blue ripples were woven into the green reflections of the mangroves.

The little blue flew over to some single mangroves where several ibises were foraging. I noticed three juvenile ibises and saw that I could get relatively close to them. The little blue was near them as well. These birds were closer to the main shoreline where the water was not disturbed so much by the wind. Also, the tide was rolling in fast and the exposed grasses were now drowning in the water. The juvy ibises can be fun, and I do find them to be more beautiful than the white adult. With three of them, there would surely be some interaction. At one point, one of them tried to grab something off a mangrove seedling.

The blue heron was hanging out near the mangrove roots. This is a beautiful opportunity to photograph this light-colored bird. The challenge here is to avoid a messy surrounding. Grasses often hang from the roots, man-made debris occasionally shows up, specks in the water, etc, are all common distractions in this type of image. With most of these images, I almost always have to clean out a few distractions here and there. For instance, notice the little 3-pronged branch in the water in the lower right of the frame. I would prefer it were not there. But, it would take quite a bit of work for me to remove that without it looking like a hack job (someone could do it better, but I would have a difficult time with it). So I left it there. Now that I have looked at it more, the little branch and couple of light leaves behind the bird's back could also be removed.

As the water levels rose, the only ibis I could see was on the shoreline. I followed it awhile. I love the look of the white bird against the dark mangroves. Here, I try to exploit the curves of the mangrove roots and get the bird in a position where the roots compliment the bird rather than compete with it.

And last, I was back to the great white egret, that was still on the hunt. For this bird, I used the mangroves and water ripples as a means of framing it. I also went with a more panoramic look, as this is a panoramic bird when it is on the strike.

Not a bad day at all in paradise. The wind sort of died down and the sun stayed. Trying to squeeze out as much summer as possible, I hope to get back here tomorrow morning.

1 comment:

  1. Connie, some great images. My favourite is the first shot of the Great White Egret. I love the different textures and colours the water has in this shot.
    I have plans in a few years to spend the british winter in Florida and your shots are giving me some real inspiration.