The Great Journey in Photography

Up, Down, and All Around

Brown Pelican in flight at Bolsa Chica

300mm f8 200iso 1/800sec

Well, it’s that time of year again when a bunch of Terns come out of nesting season and seem to be quite hungry. In particular it is a time when they gather in a special place I know of, when the tide is right a whirlpool teeming with fish appears. The best description would be a feeding frenzy. Several species of Tern gather, mostly comprised of Least , Forster’s, and Caspian in numbers sometimes so large that they actually run into each other while doing their aeronautics. It is really quite remarkable to watch these creatures work the breeze and hunt their prey by diving into the water at breakneck speed. Just before the dive these birds hang in a contorted downward looking position for what seems like an endless period of time. Actually, it is probably no more than a second but it is the perfect time to snap a photo.

Last week I was out shooting this spectacle. The tide was timed great for the setting sun and the predictable afternoon breeze was in the right direction for some great shots. The birds however  were not plentiful, only about 10 or 15 participating in the frenzy which was odd because I saw several hundred on a small island not far away where they breed. Perhaps it was still a little early to wander far from the nest. Anyhow, there were plenty of opportunities to get some fine shots and there were several photographers working the area. All these folks were so intent on getting those Tern shots that they missed all the other cool stuff going on. I knew that the Terns work in patterns, I also knew that those birds were going to continue feeding as long as the tide kept feeding them so I felt safe to take several breaks from the intense action and look around to enjoy the scenery. During those breaks I managed to see a wonderfully friendly brown pelican that posed for an extreme close up portrait and then flew a couple of laps around me close enough to get a couple of full frame BiF’s. I also saw a Great Egret and a Snowy Egret both pull fish out big enough for me to put in a frying pan. They both struggled, but both got their meal.

The point I am trying to make is that it is really important to keep your eyes open all around you. If only for safety’s sake but also there are so many missed photos when you are not aware of other things going on. Please don’t misconstrue that into thinking that I am saying not to concentrate on the task at hand, just take a moment here and there to see everything that is going on. One other moral to this story is also to try to photograph your subject doing something interesting. In this case I thought an Egret fighting with a fish was just as interesting as Terns diving into the water. Keep your wits about you and you just might find yourself in situations where you have to choose between interesting things going on rather than looking to find one.

Thanks for reading the blog. You can see more of my photos here.

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