The American Dipper & the 800mm – pt2
The Dipper is just the best entertainment! They are a panic in feathers 365 as they go about their daily routine. They were once called Water Ouzel but their named was changed which more reflects their basic biology. They are constantly “dipping” as they peer through the water looking for their food under its surface. Add to this mix a fledgling along with double clutching and it’s non-stop fun!
So the photographic challenge is first and foremost the water. The creek is full to the brim with the winter runoff so getting close physically for the most part if not possible. If the Dippers come to you, fly to your side of the creek, you have a chance otherwise you need big guns to get a decent size image of this fist size bird. I’ve shot here with the 300f4, 200-400VR2, 600VR2 and now with the 800AFS w/TC-25e all with success. I normally have flash for fill because of the shadows but didn’t this day. One problem with flash with all the water is the spray and mist. It’s floats in the air and often is between the flash and the subject. The flash freezes it making the image full of white orbs which are really visually distracting.
This bottom photo is the one I wanted, how’d I get it? The problem is the light gray plumage against the light colored rocks. I wanted that wide open mouth and frantic wing beats of the food begging so needed a dark background with just some light on the fledgling. Lower light levels with a moving subject means you risk an out of focus photo because of slower shutter speed. But slower shutter speed communicates the frantic beating of the wings as the fledgling begs. So I watched the parent and the fledgling. The fledgling spent a bunch of time in the sun, can’t say I blamed it. When the fledgling moved back in to this dark corner of the creekbed I didn’t take my eye off of it because of the darkish background. Luckily there was some reflected light off the water onto the fledgling. Having seen the parent come and go to feed with heartbeat speed, I knew I’d have just a moment to make the shot. With the slower shutter speed, I knew I’d get the wing beats, it was just that mouth that was in question. As the parent flew towards the kid, you see what transpired and by letting the D4 rip, captured one tack sharp frame (the 800mm is freakin sharp!) of the moment. You could sum it all up with my general wildlife photography philosophy, combining biology with technology…with a big dash of passion gets the shot!