The return of the cormorants to Southern Ontario is in full swing and over the weekend I spent a couple of hours at Hamilton harbor photographing them.
Sometimes I wonder why I make the trek down to the harbor since I already have captured thousands of images of these birds over the past few years.
All it takes is a couple of minutes with a camera in my hands before I appreciate, once again, how much fun it is to capture images of these large birds in flight, or of them taking off from the surface of the water.
There is a large nesting colony of cormorants adjacent to Eastport Drive which makes them very accessible, although one needs to be mindful of the traffic on the 4-lane road. For many photographers a 300mm zoom lens is long enough to capture some decent images. This makes the location ideal for amateur photographers who don’t have the money to invest in expensive, long telephoto prime lenses.
Many bird enthusiasts like cormorants because of their somewhat prehistoric appearance.
Since the birds are plentiful this time of year, Hamilton harbor is one of my favourite places to do some photo coaching with folks. The location affords them lots of opportunities to photograph the birds at their nests, in flight, and on occasion taking off from the water.
Cormorants use a ‘double leg pump’ as they try to build up sufficient speed to propel themselves off the surface of the water.
Some interesting wing and leg positions can be captured, especially when using continuous auto-focus with subject tracking at a fast frame rate.
Visiting during the morning on a sunny day is ideal since the sun will be at your back. This provides good lighting on the birds which helps capture some of their feather detail.
At the present time the birds are busy with nest building and repair so the opportunities to capture images of them carrying nesting material in their beaks abounds.
On the weekends there are usually a number of photographers staking out their turf along the guardrail so arriving early can provide the best sightlines.
The birds were very active during the morning I was there and I filled a few 16GB cards during my two hour visit.
I used a Nikon 1 V2 along with a 1 Nikon CX 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 zoom lens to capture all of the images in this article. I shot hand-held using centre-weighted average metering, AF-C at 15fps with subject tracking, Manual settings and Auto-ISO 160-3200.
The period from mid-April to late June is typically the best time to photograph cormorants at Hamilton harbor. Once the chicks are fully fledged the colony begins to dissipate.
Article and all images are Copyright 2016 Thomas Stirr. All rights reserved. No use, adaptation or reproduction of any kind is allowed without written permission. Photography Life is the only approved user of this article and if you see it reproduced anywhere else it is an unauthorized and illegal use.