Fish for Lunch

Cormorant with Lunch

I was sitting on a rock with my tripod and camera in front of me where I was just waiting for something to happen. The later-afternoon sun was starting to cast a nice ambient glow. Yep, something happened.

I went to my favorite nature reserve near Atlantic City, New Jersey and drove toward a small spillway were I’ve seen birds fish. As I drove up, I saw all kinds of birds wading and swimming around there so I knew it would be a good day to catch some bird action. But this particular location does not allow for shooting from your car so I had to get out and get close. When you get out of your car and set up your equipment, the birds will scatter. Not much you can do about it other than try and move slowly and be as quiet as you can. But once you set up and sit very still, they will return.

Guilt?

By the way, if you think I should feel a bit guilty scaring these birds and interrupting their feeding, you wouldn’t once you see an Eagle fly over the marsh. Pure pandemonium as the marsh erupts with an explosion of wings, squawking and pure catastrophic panic. It really is an amazing experience to see about a square mile of marsh cleared out in a nano-second. Maybe the Eagle is just heading out for a cruise to visit a relative or grab some ice cream. No matter, birds are incredibly judgmental and they don’t cut an Eagle a break for anything.

Alternate Camera Configuration

I am a big proponent of programming your camera to use the back focus button and turning off shutter-button focusing. This has huge advantages when composing your pictures and is an important part of my standard camera setup programmed into my Canon 5D MK II’s C3 preset dial. See more about this here. But, I make a slight modification when I shoot birds where I sometimes use shutter button focusing.

Feeding birds move randomly and quickly so you have to focus fast to grab them where only shutter button focusing will work. Composition is not so important here as birds tend to be small in the frame and I plunk them dead center in the view finder. Getting the action is more important than composition and repairs are possible by cropping in software later. This single change from my standard setup is programmed into the C2 preset so I can flip easily between either camera configuration in a split second.

Black Crowned Night Heron

I tossed in a few other pictures here just for some color. I love bird portraits because it is tough to get close and then you have to work fast. For these shots, I sat in my car and placed a small pillow on my door sill, nestled my big lens into it, and snapped away. I used my standard camera configuration with back button focus here. I placed my center focus point smack on the bird’s eye, pressed the back button to lock focus, and then recomposed the picture for the snap. Easy.

A heron snagged a fish and terrapin popped his head up for some air. Got ‘em.

It was a good day.

The Equipment:

  • Canon 5D MkII
  • Canon 500mm L f/4.0 IS
  • Pillow
  • LightRoom 5.5

Location Types: Nature Reserve. Galleries: Birds, Cormorant, and Herons. Tags: 500mm and 5D Mk II.

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