There are endless photo opportunities at the Salton Sea, California, and I never tire of watching the comings and goings of the birds. A stop on the pacific flyway, all sorts of birds come to rest and eat here.
Although quite common, one of my favourites is the Great Egret, for it’s grace.
I love to just find myself a comfortable place to sit with a good view, be peaceful and quiet, and wait for the birds to come to me. They usually avoid people at first, but I find if I stay in the same place for awhile they get used to me and pretty soon I have a fantastic up-close perspective.
When they fish, it always reminds me of a dance as they run along the surface.
I made these images with my Canon 7D and the 400 f/5.6L lens. When photographing birds in motion, I like to play with my shutter speed to get it just so that the wings are slightly blurred to convey the motion, but the head of the bird is sharp. It takes a bit of playing around to get that just right since it all depends on how quickly the bird is moving.
I love this “conductor” pose!
For these shots, I used aperture priority and picked f/8 which ensures that I have enough depth of field for the entire bird to be in focus. Then I increase the ISO until I have at least 1/500th of a second to ensure the eye will be frozen and sharp. The wings are usually moving faster than the head, which is why it’s possible to get a sharp eye and blurred wings.
It’s critical that the eye is sharp. As long as the eye is sharp, it doesn’t matter if any other part of the bird is blurred due to motion. In fact, I like it that way. But if you want all parts of the bird to be sharp, a faster shutter speed like 1/1,000 of a second will usually do the trick.