The Great Journey in Photography

Brandt’s Journey

Brandt's Cormorant at La Jolla cove

500mm f8 250iso 1/640sec

I’ve never had much luck photographing Brandt’s Cormorants in the past. I don’t often see them in my usual areas and when I do they tend to be skittish. Seems like every time I get a shot of one it is either too far away or exposed too dark. That brings up one of the things that makes photographing this bird difficult. Very often, infact much of the time, I am photographing light colored subjects and seeing something dark like the Brandt’s requires a quick change in settings to get a proper exposure. I usally make a change in the right direction but in the few seconds allowed to get a BiF shot I almost always under expose by a good bit. The other issue is blowing out the highlights in the rest of the image.

When I was making my trips to La Jolla Cove this past Winter one of my goals was to finally get some decent images of my elusive bird. I didn’t want to just get the “in flight” and obligitory “hundreds on the cliff” shots, I wanted to get down and get some nice well exposed portraits. On the day that I took the photo above I had been shooting Gulls and Pelicans through the early morning. After some dufus wandered by scaring off all the other birds I took a break and came back to shoot the Brandt’s Cormorant. It was after 10am and the light was getting pretty harsh even though there was cloud cover that obscured the sun from time to time. One of the problems I ran into was that this one lone soldier spent most of its time hanging around with Western Gulls so I had a bunch of images of blown out gulls and the properly exposed Cormorant. Photoshop would be difficult for most of them so they now reside on my computer unprocessed. Like the one above, there were a couple that came out pretty well. Usually I would say (and do) set the exposure about a stop or more to the plus side but checking the exif data on this image showed 0-EV in apeture priority with spot metering. Normally in a situation like this I would do a manual exposure.

Brandt’s Cormorants are a coastal bird that live along the West coast of North America. Some live all year in the South and the ones in the North migrate South for the winter. The Brandt’s is named after German naturalist Johann Friedrich von Brandt who “discovered” them in the 19th century. They are average size in the Cormorant family and feed on small fish on the sea floor. They have been observed diving up to 40 feet to fish. During breeding season the have  a blue throat patch. Adults have the striking green eyes. There are about 230,000 Brandt’s Cormorants along the Pacific Coast of North America.

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