Northern Fulmar, Fulmarus glacialis – Saint Paul Island; Pribilof Islands, Alaska: The Zapadni Cliffs rise out of the Bering Sea, jutting upward for two hundred feet or more. The height and location of the cliffs provides a splendid view of Saint Paul on a clear day.
On a blustery June morning I stood atop the Zapadni Cliffs bundled in a down parka and mittens searching for just the right spot to photograph seabirds. Walking along the cliffs I found numerous outcrops of rocks that allowed views of birds lined along the narrow ledges. As I was shooting auklets and murres I noticed a few Northern Fulmars soaring just off the cliff face. The fulmars soared in long, wide, sweeping figure eight pattern.
As I sat and observed, I saw that the fulmars moved in a rhythmic, predictable pattern; a pattern that brought them close to the cliffs edge, which would allow me to get a good shot of these wind masters. Moving to a position that allowed me to shoot over the cliffs edge I had full command of the scene before me, being able to follow the birds as they road the winds in their long sweeping arcs.
The fulmars moved so fast it was hard keeping up with them as I looked through the cameras viewfinder. If not for the auto focus and tracking feature of the lens and camera a sharp image would have been impossible. The overcast of the mornings sky required me to shoot using a slow shutter speed and panning technique. Panning combined with the slow shutter speed causes the background of an image (in this case the moving waves of the Bering Sea) to render as streaks of tone and color. The technique worked exceedingly well as the slow shutter speed combined with the panning action blurred the background and wing movement to produced an ethereal quality of movement and action that defined the moment and the essence of a fulmar.