Tools of Specialization that Evolved

Snail Kite captured by Z 9 / Z400f4.5 w/Z1.4x

The Snail Kite gives away in its name what it eats, snails. This highly specialized raptor eats just one thing, freshwater apple snails of Florida’s Central wetlands. It can snatch from the water and pop a snail out of its shell faster than a French Chef! Those talons & bill give it the ability to grasp the snail with great efficiency. The Snail Kite’s problem causing it to crash to just 64 individuals in the 80s is the loss of habitat and its food source. Then in 2004 a very destructive and evasive island apple snail came in. Bad for the environment, the island apple snail, the size of a tennis ball is prolific and has replaced the freshwater apple snail, the size of a ping pong ball. You might think that for a highly specialized predator like the Snail Kite this would be the last nail in its coffin. But the Snail Kite evolved in the matter of a decade with longer, stronger talons and longer mandible. So in the short term, the kite found a sudo solution for its own problem. Or did it? I guess only time will tell but in the meantime watching this mater of the wetlands is a joy as it uses its tools of specialization that evolved.

Chasing the Wave

Northern Lights captured by Z 9 / Z24-70f2.8

First appearing like faint green stream, Northern Lights are a wave of particles that light up the night in a magical show. Reds, yellows and the most common green pulse back and forth, come and go and the earth spins below them. Just back from Alaska photographing them and filming a new class for KelbyOne. It’s a case of “planned” luck going on a northern lights adventure as you are counting on two segments of Mother Nature. You have the Aurora Borealis that is always in flux in intensity and the weather. Nothing more frustrating to know the lights are dancing overhead only to see the bottom of clouds. But when they do appear they are like nothing else you’ve ever witnessed! It’s a challenge to tell their story as it’s like chasing a wave!


Wood Stork captured by Z 9 / 800AFS w/1.25x

The Wood Stock, also known as Flinthead is a large and at times awkward looking bird that was once near extinction. Hunted for its breeding plumes, it was placed on the Endangered Species list in 1984. Since then their numbers have steadily climbed so now they are about to be delisted. It’s this time of year when they are hard at work increasing their numbers even further. When there is enough water providing habitat for their prey fish they produce eggs. In drought years, they might not nest at all. This is a good year and they are quite busy creating some fun photo opps for the patient photographer!

Wood Stork captured by Z 9 / 800AFS w/1.25x

Patience at the rockery is required as a majority of the time they are either just standing or sitting on the nest. At the same time, being all white and nesting in live tress, you gotta have the right light or you just come back with yuck. Luckily the male spends some time in the evening gathering and delivering sticks to the female for the nest. With this knowledge, you want to set yourself up so you can pan with the incoming male watching for the best background. Then the challenge is not just panning but having a shooting path when the male gets to the nest. That’s because the male you’re panning with might not go to the nest you can see, it might be to one hidden in another part of the tree. It is quite a bit of fun. And if it’s a really good evening the male gets rewarded by the female when it makes its deliver. That birds and the bee thing. Just need an active rockery, great light and that male incoming!

Wood Stork captured by Z 9 / 800AFS w/1.25x

It Takes Just the Slightest Wisp

Moose Creek captured by Z 9 / Z14-24f2.8

I’m up in beautiful Alaska chasing Northern Lights and part of that process is scouting during the day for where you want to park at night. I went to Moose Creek yesterday (no relation) to find the tiniest of wisp of clouds and I knew I had to make a click. How do you talk about big skies when the viewer is not standing next to you to experience them themselves? I instantly went to black and white because the “gray” background makes the white pops. You’ve gotta know you have the killer tool in ACR, B&W Mixer where you can take the blue slider and move it just a bit to the right and makes those clouds pop. You have Sky Masking where AI selects all the sky so you can move the Clarity slider a tad to the right and with that, those wisps now are working so show expanse. With these tools in your pocket, it takes just the slightest wisp.

It Takes a Bridge?!

Florida Brown Pelican captured by Z 9 / Z400f4.5 w/Z1.4x

Photographing birds in flight is such a challenge and such fun you just can’t help but go at it at every chance. There are some really, really fine images out there raising the bar as it should. So how do you get that flight shot you might want to share? There are some elements you need to incorporate to make the uncommon from the common. Let’s remove sharp as one of those elements because that’s mandatory, it’s gotta be sharp. We can do the same with exposure, both are given as a being present in the photo. So then what else?

The two elements you can have “control” over are light and background. And here is where your passion and talent can shine. The obvious element you need are the birds and when going for flight shots its helps that you have a predictable flight path. For example, birds flying into a rookery or a bird feeder. You need more than one flight in order to prefect every part of the photographic process. For this example I had food working for me. The Pelicans were feeding on a school of bait fish between Sunrise Bridge and North Fishing Pier in Florida. It’s a favorite haunt of mine and this evening the opportunity presented a very uncommon photo.

So evening, there is the light component for creating an uncommon photo. The background is the water which is common but what was reflecting this evening was not. The combination of clouds, fog, light and construction on the bride made an incredible pallet of colors. You can see below on the left the light quality on the pelican, it’s very nice light. You can see on the right the background which when in focus is not so nice. But when the pelicans took advantage of the ground effect and glided effortlessly over the water is when the combination of all the elements came together. The last element added to the photo was a slow shutter speed. It was 1/50 so there was a feel of “speed” to the photo. And with that, the photo was made. Keep an open mind as you follow your passion for bird photography. Look for the patterns, the elements and try it all when it makes sense. You never know when it all comes together even when it take a bridge.

Not So Fast There

DC-6 “The Lucky Duck” captured by Z 6II / Z24-70f2.8

As much as I am looking forward to spring, I was going through my files and this photo reminded me that there are still some killer photos to take with snow. With the recent storms in some locales and melting in other, snow right now with the coming spring light can make some very cool opportunities! With the sun a bit higher on the horizon brings with is a mood that can set off snow that you won’t find in mid winter. The trick to it is to find a subject where the snow is just an element of the photograph and not the subject. Like this DC-6 up in Fairbanks, AK on a pizza parlor I believe. We actually have a short period of time with this kinds of images with snow on its way out and the light with a slight edge to it. Have fun, tell your story, share it and make someone smile knowing the snow is on its way out and spring is around the corner!
error: Content is protected !!