Thursday, July 21, 2011

Update, and Pic of the Day:

   Hello everyone, this is my first post since July 7.  Sorry for not posting sooner but I have been on (and off) the road since my last post. 
     My latest travels have taken me to Canada and Maine.  My Canadian destination was Longue Pointe de Mingan, on the north shore of the Gulf of Saint Lawrence.  From there I took a small boat to, Les Iles au Perroquets to photograph puffins and other seabirds.  After arriving at Les Iles au Perroquet I found it somewhat of a disappointment as I was under the impression that I would have the opportunity to get very close to puffins. 
     While the island host about 200 breeding puffins, there are no blinds that allow close access to the birds.  Though I could not get close-up images of the birds I quickly saw the potential of shooting flight shots as the birds flew to their burrows.  The only other location I had photographed Atlantic Puffins was Machias Seal Island, off the coast of Maine.  While standing in the blinds at Machias Seal, it is next to impossible to take flight shots, so I took advantage of the situation on Les Iles au Perroquets.  By the way, this translates to “Island of the Parrots.”  The name was given by old sailor who called puffins, “Sea Parrots,” because of their large colorful beak. 
     To shoot the flight images I used a 300mm lens mounted on a custom made gunstock mount.  The gunstock mount allowed me to follow the birds with a smooth panning motion.  A cable release in the gunstock allowed me to release the shutter as if pulling the trigger of a gun.  I would say that about 1/3 of the images I shot were sharp.  Not too bad as the puffins were extremely fast fliers.  Razorsbills, by the way, flew considerably slower.  I did not notice this until I started taking the flight shots.  Razorbills were somewhat easy to get the lens on and follow; puffins were much more difficult because of the speed they flew.
     I also used a Nikon D300 with an MBD-11 set to continuous high frame rate.  I love shooting the Nikon D7000 with its 16 mega pixel frame, but it simply does not shoot enough frames per second to get the job done in this situation.

     Razorbill Auk – Les Iles au Perroquets, Mingan Archipelago; Gulf of Saint Lawerence, Canada:  
     I have always loved photographing razorbills.  They are a real challenge being a totally black and white bird.  Well, that is not quite true.  The black is really a brown-black, but in bright sunlight, as when this shot was taken, the angle has to be just right to see the brown coloration. 
     As the auks and puffins flew past me they would often tilt at an angle that illuminated the bird at just the right angle to put a highlight in the eye.  I began shooting before the tilt, with the expectations of capturing an image with the highlight in the eye.  I like using cameras with a fast frame rate to capture the wings in just the right position.
     I had to watch for birds flying low over the water at some distance from shore.  Once finding one that appeared to be heading ashore, I pointed the lens and locked focus as it approached.  The birds move very fast and I often lost focus. This was simply caused by my inability at times to pan the camera as the birds flew passed (they move sooooo darn fast).
     I lucked out with this bird, it has two sand eels in its beak.  One of the reasons I went to “Les Iles au Perroquets” was to photograph puffins with fish.  I was happy to settle for this image.

More to come..............

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