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Always a great time on the lake at Blue Cypress photographing the osprey. I had some goals this year having done it last year for the first time. I knew what to expect and what to hope for. Each time is always unique, never like the last. The light was very challenging most of the time this year, but made for some interesting shots as we struggled to work in harmony with nature to provide the most pleasing atmosphere that is conducive to good photography. Almost all of these shots are full frame. No shot is cropped less than 90%. All vertical shots are shot as such and not cropped vertical.
Wing position was on the top of my list as far as what I was looking for with my shots. I wanted shots where the wings were coming right at the viewer framing the osprey like the two shots above. This is difficult because the bird needs to be flying at the photographer, but it is also difficult because it is almost always a take off wing pose; and it only happens once. Since one never really knows when the subject will take off it’s all instinct and anticipation. I was fortunate to obtain several of these shots on this trips with various backgrounds and peripheral items in the scene. The shot below is next in the sequence of the D4′s 10 FPS cycle. I can tell you, you only get one shot at that wing position above before you get the classic T style (as seen below) and then the regular flight pattern you see when they’re flying around. Anticipation is the key to capturing this wing position if you’re fortunate enough to have the wind and light positioning in your favor to be in the right position to catch the bird flying toward you.
Landing poses are always great. There is such intent focus on the part of the bird to hit that branch. Capturing that focus and talon extension was right up there on my list. Good light is always a plus.
It happens time and time again. Keep in mind there are two things one needs to capture this angle. The light of course is always a concern, but the second concern is having the wind to your back. Without that wind position the bird isn’t likely to land head on.
Ok, so you’ve got a good landing shot, how do you improve it? Catch the osprey with some nesting material (above) or a bringing a fish back to the nest. While another one of my goals was a green background it didn’t always work out (above). I pretty much always was at f4 because I had to make sure my depth of field was as shallow as possible to blow the background out, but even still, if there is some blue or bright tree trunks in the background it will always be distracting. Unfortunately I can’t exactly ask the bird to do it again. You get one shot, then you have to wait and wait, always fighting the rise in the sun, hoping to get a better angle.
That brings me to my next goal. Vertical shots. One word, TOUGH. It was very hard not to clip the wings on the vertical shots. I had a devil of a time getting used to the difference is target acquisition. My normal motion with the camera horizontal would be a bit too low and the bird would be just on top of the frame. I constantly had to remind myself to aim high when shooting vertical. Even then when one of the osprey would jump off the perch and fly toward me, I was always low. I somehow missed the fact that they jumped as they flew out (see below). I mean how great would that shot have been if I caught those wings. Whew. I still love that shot. Love it.
All these shots were taken with my trusty invaluable 500mm f/4 along with my champion D4. At times I used a combination of 2x and 1.4x TCs, but for the most part it was straight 500 and D4. It was challenging as we were on a boat shooting handheld with some rough chop at times.
I really like these vertical shots. They produced some great environmental shots where a nice soft hint of the background is visible. The osprey are smaller in the frame to get a greater sense of the environment. As pleased as I was with some of these verticals, I didn’t quite get the shot I had in my minds eye. Oh well, there’s always next year.
Here is another example of what could have worked but didn’t. The golden highlights on the nest and osprey, with a hint of color in the sky. Ultimately the light just wasn’t at the right angle to really bring this shot into its full potential.
Next up on the list of goals was talons. Close up talons. I wanted something you don’t see everyday. Too often I lose sight of the details and just focus on getting the whole bird in the frame. Get the eyes, get the light, the pose, etc. Well this time I made a conscious effort to grab some close up talon shots. I wanted to make sure they weren’t just talons, but interesting talons. Well talons are seldom more interesting when then when they’re landing (oh sure, if those were about to land on a fish or another birds back they might be more interesting ;~) but for my sake, this was about as good as it was going to get. So interchanging between my 1.4x and 2x TC slapped on my 500mm away I went to find some interesting talons. Not too shabby if I do say so myself. This one was with my 1.4x on, yep, that’s close.
No summation would quite be complete without a nice golden light close up shot of an angry bird cursing out your neighbor for bringing out canon camera gear (HAHAHA just kidding guys you’re the best). Till next year.