No matter how much planning is done, depending on the photography genre weather can often be an issue – and sometimes you need the cooperation of a much higher power – Mother Nature!
I had the pleasure of working with a client on a range of photography topics for a day and a half this week. His biggest interest was bird photography, with birds-in-flight being his number one priority. After finalizing a tight itinerary it really came down to whether birds would show up during the very limited times we had when visiting various venues. And, even if the birds were there the big question was whether they’d actually take flight for us. During the day and a half we had about 4 hours initially planned for birds-in-flight photography. We crossed our fingers hoping that Mother Nature would be cooperative.
With the cormorants still in their nesting stage that was a bit of a no-brainer from a planning standpoint. Early the first morning under overcast conditions we had plenty of opportunities to practice birds in flight at Eastport Drive in Hamilton. The dreary conditions were not very conducive to getting many keepers though.
And gulls – well they’re ubiquitous and somewhat uninspiring – but good as practice subjects. We didn’t bother with them the first morning.
One of our best capture opportunities was one of those unexpected gems. As we were photographing (you guessed it) a few gulls for some practice quite late in the afternoon on the first day, a couple of geese took flight from across the narrow harbor and headed straight at us, one chasing the other. The pursuit was so intense that they weren’t paying that much attention to what was in front of them and the pair ended up missing us by 8 to 10 feet to our left, rocketing past us at chest height. The image above is a full frame capture from a long AF-C run. It’s not cropped on the width at all…so yeah…the geese were really close!
The sly look on this fellow’s face tells it all. We saw a number of ducks – but we were met with a total absence of real cooperation from them – with only a few, sporadic fly-bys. All of which were far too high up to be of any real potential.
Our mid-morning visit to Hendrie Valley on the first day proved fruitful. We had a few good opportunities to capture low flying geese with some individuals giving us nice displays of their water landing technique as you can see in the following image.
Mother Nature sent us a few other special gifts. The first was a Great Blue Heron that landed in one of the shallow ponds at Hendrie Valley and stayed there long enough for us to move physically in order to get in a good image capturing position before it decided to take flight. A decent AF-C run yielded the image below.
Sometimes altering plans can prove beneficial. After deciding to forgo some planned work on flower photography on the morning of the second day we headed off to the Niagara Gorge to hopefully capture some images of Turkey Vultures soaring. We ended up with a ton of good fly-bys with some of the birds flying quite low and parallel to us in the gorge. Rather than the typical high-up belly shots of Turkey Vultures that resemble black blobs in the sky we were treated to some opportunities to capture nice, bright lighting on their backs and wings, revealing a good amount of feather detail.
Mother Nature’s blessings continued with the arrival of a raptor that made a series of fly-bys. Some of them were so close to us that they yielded the next uncropped image.
The bright morning sun gave us plenty of light and the raptor cooperated with a number of nice wing displays before it was harassed by a crow and flew off.
Good planning is always important when considering photography coaching, but getting a helping hand from Mother Nature can make the difference between a good day and a great one!
Technical Note: All images were captured hand-held using a Nikon 1 V2 and a 1 Nikon CX 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 zoom lens. All images in this article were processed from RAW files using my standard workflow of DxO OpticsPro 10 Elite, CS6, and Nik Suite.
Article and all images Copyright 2016 Thomas Stirr. No use, adaptation, or reproduction of any kind is allowed without express, written permission. Photography Life is the only approved user of this article. If you see it reproduced anywhere else it is an unauthorized and illegal use.