Chasing the Moment
Story and photography by Jim Clark
|Knowing when to anticipate a moment can pay dividends in photographing nature, as shown in my column in Part II in the November issue. This article provides an example that illustrates how knowing when to chase a moment can also pay off.
After the conclusion of my final spring workshop along Virginia’s eastern shore, I spent the afternoon exploring the Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge. While on the refuge’s Wildlife Drive, I saw several flocks of white and glossy ibis flying into Snow Goose Pool. As soon as one flock landed, another flock winged over the pines and landed in the same wetland.
Before long, several hundred wading birds had gathered in the wetland. With so much avian activity, I decided to stay and photograph this amazing natural event. Only a few hours of daylight remained, so I had to be ready to chase the moment. Now wasn’t a time to fiddle with camera controls, as precious moments could be lost.
I quickly positioned myself to allow for the best angle of ambient light on the birds flying into and feeding in the wetland. For me, that was having the low-angled sun directly behind me. The light washed over the birds, showcasing the details and color in their plumage. I used a continuous high rate of 9 to 11 frames per second to capture the action of birds flying and interacting with each other. For exposure I used both manual and aperture priority settings. For manual, I took a spot reading off the ibis and set my exposure accordingly — as long as the birds were in the same light, the exposure would be correct. For aperture priority, I simply adjusted exposure with the camera’s exposure compensation dial. If I needed more speed, I increased the ISO setting. With a quick look at the histogram on my camera’s LCD monitor, I could make adjustments as needed.
My lenses of choice were an 600mm with and without a 1.4x extender on a tripod and an 80-400mm telephoto zoom, handheld to capture the flocks as they flew to the wetland. With my 80-400mm telephoto, I could zoom in on individual birds or action and then zoom out quickly to capture a wider view of the flocks of ibis. My 600mm stayed firm on a sturdy tripod with a Wimberley WH-200 gimbal head, which provided quick and easy follow-throughs when photographing the birds in flight.
Except for the occasional sip of a diet cherry cola, my attention stayed focused solely on the drama playing out in front of me. The activity in the wetland became nonstop. Something was happening no matter where I looked — flocks flying in, birds competing for position, birds chasing other birds to get a prized catch, or just birds standing and waiting their turn for an opportunity.
I needed to keep my attention on the action and not worry about my settings. The critical part of knowing when to chase a moment is having the confidence in your understanding of exposure and camera settings so you can concentrate on capturing the shot at the right moment in time. So before you head back into nature, be sure to bring your skills at anticipation and chase with you. You’ll be glad you did.
|What Drew Them In?
Are you wondering why the ibis and other wading birds were congregating in such large numbers in these wetlands? Well, water in the freshwater pools is carefully managed by refuge staff to provide optimum feeding habitat for waterfowl, shorebirds and wading birds.
In spring, water levels are reduced to create exposed mudflats that attract migrating shorebirds. The lower water level also creates isolated pools of water that concentrate fish for wading birds to feed upon. This is what I was witnessing — a literal feeding frenzy of herons, egrets and ibis. Later, as summer progresses, the exposed mudflats become thick with native vegetation that migrating waterfowl favor for food. As winter approaches, the water control structures are closed to retain rainwater, which creates higher water levels preferred by waterfowl that winter on the refuge. The more you know…
A past NANPA president and former contributing editor for Outdoor Photographer, Jim Clark is currently the nature photography instructor for the Chincoteague Bay Field Station, Wallops Island, Virginia. The author/photographer of six books, Jim is particularly proud of two children’s books he did with his son Carson. Jim was also a major contributor to the book, Coal Country. Jim’s website can be found at www.jimclarkphoto.com, blog at www.jimclarkphoto.wordpress.com, or visit him on Facebook.
By Sean Fitzgerald, NANPA Past President
How You Can Help “Crowdfund” Our High School Program with $10 and 10 Minutes
The NANPA Foundation is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization that helps fund many NANPA projects we all know and love. One of those is our High School Scholarship Program, which has literally changed the lives of its young participants and helped create future generations of conservation photographers (including one of our past NANPA presidents, Gabby Salazar!). Continue reading
by Clay Bolt
We have a lot of funny names for what we produce. But did it ever occur to you that the word photography actually translates to “writing with light?” It is a process that is so familiar, and yet, when its meaning and all that meaning entails is dwelled upon, it feels a whole lot like magic. These silly little names that we call our images hardly express what they really are.
As photographers, we have the ability to capture—for all time—the essence of a breaking beam of light through spring foliage, twinkling starlight over a rugged mountain peak, the red-hot rim of fur on a backlit bison, and evening’s fading illumination of a loved one’s face. Forever. A single passing moment, out of countless such moments, saved from the great maw of time. Continue reading
Story and photography by Deborah Allen
When Columbia University Press asked me to write a field guide to Central Park birds in 2009, I knew immediately that it was the perfect project for me. The New York City-based publisher was looking to capitalize on its success with a book by Edward Sibley Barnard, New York City Trees, by continuing with a series of local natural history titles.
Central Park is one of the most beloved urban spaces in the world. Many people don’t know that it’s also one of the best places to see and photograph birds in the United States—a “hot spot” in the language of birders. The complete checklist of all the birds reported in the park stands at 300 species. It includes 40 species of wood warblers, 36 of which occur annually.
Story and photography by Jerry Ginsberg
This is the time of year when I struggle to recommend good photo destinations for winter travel. Even though we are a really big country, there are relatively few national parks to be found in our southerly latitudes.
So let’s try something a little different. Once we cross the Equator, the seasons are reversed. For example, Christmas in the Southern Hemisphere arrives near summertime there owing to the tilt of the Earth’s axis.
Let’s take a look at Chilean Patagonia and famed Parque Nacional Torres del Paine (Towers of Blue National Park). Don’t worry; you can get by just fine with English.
Story and photography by F.M. Kearney
Years ago, I referred to the out-focus parts of an image as, well, the out-of-focus parts of an image. Nowadays, it seems as though there’s a specific name for everything, and bokeh is the name for the aesthetic quality of the blur in the out-of-focus parts of an image produced by a lens. It has also been defined as “the way the lens renders out-of-focus points of light.”
After viewing several You Tube videos, I’m still not 100 percent sure how to correctly pronounce bokeh, but I can tell you it was popularized in Photo Techniques magazine in 1997. The word began showing up in photography books in 1998.
Perhaps the only thing that really matters is how to use it to enhance your photos. Continue reading