Windows For the Soul - Photography

Panning a Cormorant: how hard can it be? (take 2)

My take 2 at trying to pan a cormorant on its take-off. Harsh light, 1/30 shutter, no ND filters with me...one can imagine that as challenging as panning the bird properly is getting rid of all the bloody dust specks on the damned photo... Having said that, this panning is much closer to what I wanted. If only I had a different background to highlight the panning effect...

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Nikon D3S, Nikon AF-S 300mm f/4 ED-IF, Nikon TC-14E

Panning a Cormorant: how hard can it be?

I've been trying to get a decent panning shot of a cormorant taking off, but this has proved rather difficult to achieve. I hardly ever manage to get them taking off in the right direction and there is just too much vertical movement, as they jump on the water, for me to be able to get anything sharp enough before the cormorant is actually flying. So far, this is probably the closest I could get to what I want. However, I can see a few details that I am not happy with. First of all...the bird is already flying because I could not get a sharp enough photo when it was jumping along the take off. The background is a bit too dull when it comes to colours but that's not my fault. The eye could be a bit more frozen which I would dare say means that I wasn't following it as steadily as I should have. Worst of all, though, my shutter speed is a tiny bit higher than I wanted for a proper panning shot usually I would go for 1/20-1/40 but to try to compensate for the vertical movements of the bird's on take off I set a 1/60 speed. I surely am not giving up, though...
On the other hand, I always hesitate between using the Nikon D3S for its machine-gun shutter speed or the D800 which I feel it has a better focusing system in difficult situations and in a panning situation is obviously not limited by high ISO constraints. I went for the D3S, losing resolution, focusing accuracy and detail, even though the latter is not determinant in this context, I suppose.
Do email me if you have further suggestions or comments to make.

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Nikon D3S, Nikon AF-S 300mm f/4 ED-IF

Catching-up with some Cormorant photos

I have been neglecting this blog for over a year now and who is to blame for that? I could say it is Instagram, as I have only posted there throughout my absence here, even though only occasionally. However, the fact is that I have been lazy, dodging the cumbersome task of posting with RapidWeaver. To try to put an end to this, I will post here, from now on, whatever I post on Instagram. I will start by posting, in retrospect, a few of the photos that I have posted on Instagram since then, either in groups or one at a time, as I feel like it along the way.
I have been chasing Cormorants for a couple of years, whenever I have a little time to spare while they are around for the colder seasons. More often than not, I end up with ordinary photos, little more than a portrait of a bird, doing the usual stuff - flying, posing on a roosting spot, swimming, etc. - and almost always noticeably wary of my presence and, frequently, too far away for my maximum 420mm focal length on my FX cameras.

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Nikon D3S, Nikon AF-S 300mm f/4 ED-IF, Nikon TC-14E

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Nikon D800, Nikon AF-S 300mm f/4 ED-IF, Nikon TC-14E

A cormorant roosted on a pole is an ordinary picture, even if it looks like it is posing for the camera in a seemingly menacing stance. A photo of it just as it landing on the pole is a little less common, but still nothing to be very happy with.
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Nikon D800, Nikon AF-S 300mm f/4 ED-IF, Nikon TC-14E

So, I tend to struggle to get something out of my memory cards that I like and I often have to try to get some aspect in the photo to add the unusual to what would otherwise be plainly banal. A Cormorant flying with graffiti as background might just be unusual enough, hopefully... If not, I reckon it is, at least, a curious sign of the times we are living in.

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Nikon D800, Nikon AF-S 300mm f/4 ED-IF, Nikon TC-14E

These are quite active birds, depending on factors such as, I would say, time of the day, weather, tide, location and human presence. Ideally, getting some hunting action would be great. However, whenever I manage to photograph them when they score, I alway felt disappointed with the result either due to excessive distance or very poor light conditions, clearly degrading image quality via lower than adequate shutter speed
or excessively high ISO.

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Nikon D600, Nikon AF-S 300mm f/4 ED-IF, Nikon TC-14E

Chasing cormorants around and trying to do something out of the ordinary in circumstances that are far from ideal means that I have to look for something different. A reflection in the water waiting for the right time of the day at the right spot can grant me some odd colours in the water on what would otherwise be just a picture of a cormorant swimming about.

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Nikon D800, Nikon AF-S 300mm f/4 ED-IF, Nikon TC-14E

What makes a different picture? Having a cormorant flying in the distance against a colourful late sunset sky is a bit of a cliché, even though it might have a set of colours pleasing to the eye. I wonder if a little odd detail on the photo is enough to turn the cliché into a different photo...well, I suppose not....
A moment of group behaviour of a few cormorants roosted on the same tree, early in the evening, against the light of a past-sunset sky, or just the silhouette of a group of birds perched on a tree against a colourful strip of the early evening sky.


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Nikon D800, Nikon AF-S 300mm f/4 ED-IF, Nikon TC-14E

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Nikon D800, Nikon AF-S 300mm f/4 ED-IF, Nikon TC-14E

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Nikon D800, Nikon AF-S 300mm f/4 ED-IF

None of these photos is a shot that I can say that I have nailed it, a shot that I can say that I can comfortably think that it is a decent photo and that I have done a nice job. I will keep on chasing the cormorants and, hopefully, I will get such a shot. Until then, I kind of like these photos, but I do not expect them to pass the scrutiny of an expert, whatever that is.

In need of a telephoto lens... or not.

I hesitated considerably before posting these photos. I mean, I always do, maybe too much... or maybe not enough. This time, though, I had a further reason to question whether I should do it or not. However, this set of photos is a good illustration of a couple of things I feel that are worthy of a few lines. I hope I am not too wrong. The past few weeks, everyday, with an amazing punctuality just before sunset, flocks of cormorants fly over my house, coming from the seaside, flying inland for the night. I had this photo in my mind of one of those flocks (ranging from only two birds to well over twenty) flying in from the sunset from an almost horizontal perspective. How could I do that if they were flying rather high above my head? Well, by climbing onto the roof of my house, of course. With that in mind, I waited for a day with some rain-threatening clouds, but sunny enough to ensure a colourful late afternoon sky. I got lucky with the weather and I was not disappointed with the light conditions. However, when I showed these photos to two very different people, they had quite distinct reactions. The first one, who I usually consider, more or less as a joke, the acid test for my photography, seemed to be quite pleased with the result. I guess it was the colourful sky that got her sympathy. The second one, a friend who, in my opinion (for what it is worth), is a great nature photographer, was kind enough not to trash them bluntly. Kindly, he just said: ”your 80-200 mm lens is short, isn´t it?” I guess he is right, the lens is short because I had to crop some of the photos a bit and still the birds are little more than tiny spots in the sky. I suppose his precious feedback alone should be enough to keep me from posting them and to understand that the photos are, to put it mildly, plain boring. Yet, every single one of these shots is much closer to what I wanted to do than they would be if I had used a longer lens. True, I would have been able to get closer to the cormorants, but I would have lost too much diversity in the sky and it was the sky with the birds that I wanted to capture rather than the other way around. So, this just goes to show a couple of things: first, you should not trust the approval of your most ferocious critic; secondly, if you really want to find opportunities to use your gear, all you have to do is to open your eyes and.... climb to the roof top of your house; finally, sometimes having the gear that one could think that it would be the most suitable for the situation may keep you from taking the photo that you have imagined. The problem is when the photo that you have imagine is a cr*ppy one, as it seems to be the case. Be that as it may, I am still mad at Santa for forgetting that 500 mm that was on my Christmas wish list.

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Nikon D7100, Nikon 80-200 mm f/2.8 @200 mm, ISO 900, 1/200, f/7.1.

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Nikon D7100, Nikon 80-200 mm f/2.8 @200 mm, ISO 640, 1/250, f/7.1.

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Nikon D7100, Nikon 80-200 mm f/2.8 @200 mm, ISO 280, 1/320, f/10.