The Great Journey in Photography

Tern Time

Tern-at-Bolsa-Chica

300mm f5.6 250iso 1/2,500sec
click for larger image

All of a sudden it has become mid-Summer, hot hazy days of Summer, my how time can fly. Not the best time of year for bird photography, Summer photography for me features the Terns of Bolsa Chica. Skimmers, Least, Caspian Common, and Forster’s are all plentiful this time of year and are usually easy to find. They are by no means easy to photograph. This year I have yet to witness one of the legendary feeding frenzy when large numbers of the Terns assemble in mass and take turns diving for fish, impatiently, and often colliding in the air. The conditions have to be right for a frenzy, wind and tide play a large role. I have had two sessions when I thought conditions were perfect but nothing ever developed. There are always a handful of birds regardless of the conditions so making photographs is always possible. Overshadowing the Tern activity this year has been the remarkable quantity and behavior of Brown Pelicans. None the less there are some great Tern images to be made.

As a quick review for photographing this birds always remember that fast rules everything. These guys are incredibly fast with lots of jerky motions and sudden changes in direction. They are relatively oblivious to humans while fishing and will fly very close to you at times so that means that focal lengths of 200-300mm will work just fine. You will want however, to have have a camera with a fast frame rate, a fast lens, and back button focus enabled. All of our Terns are high contrast subjects in one respect or another, very often with a patch of black in the head area, so watch that the highlights don’t get blown out at all. I have found that recovering blown out highlights that are less than a stop over yields less detail then if it is right in camera so I say default to the underexposed side. In order to get eye detail in many cases when that portion of the head is black you need to capture the eyes in direct sunlight.
Lastly, take some time to watch their behavior. Each bird will have it’s own pattern of flight and fishing. They repeat these behaviors over and over, that makes them predictable, and that knowledge will help make you successful.

Thanks for reading and I hope you enjoyed todays picture. If you click on it you will be able to see the full size version. Notice the eye detail.

Follow me on twitter @RonBoyd

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