The Warm Up

3/20/2021 - 3/21/2021


The weather has taken a turn. While there will surely be a snowfall or two to come, the bulk of cold weather should be behind us. The weather has changed, and the birds know it. Things are moving.


Surprisingly, the large flock of Rusty Blackbirds were not in a hurry to depart Eagle Creek Park. In spite of the nice weather, they continued to be seen at the park this weekend. Saturday, I was finally able to catch up with them. I had to shoot from within the car, though. Attempts to get out and get lower were a complete failure. I am happy to have seen so many (80+, over a 100 by some counts) in one place. Definitely the first time I have seen that many.

I headed to the beach at one point, but I did not have much luck with photographing the ducks, there. In spite of the large distance, the mergansers were quite skittish and left quickly. I managed a few photos, but I had higher hopes. A pair of Ruddy Duck were a nice surprise.

I spent a lot of the day trying for more blackbird shots, but I never got another shot off. I had expected to see a lot of bluebirds and swallows fighting for nest boxes this day, but I only saw two Tree Swallows the whole day.


There was quite a bit of turnover leading into Sunday. I started at the beach trying for duck shots, but I failed to even get a shot. Out of curiosity, I checked the nest boxes. It was a complete 180 from the previous day. Where I had only seen two Tree Swallows the day before, every box was now staked out by Tree Swallows. The nest boxes near the pond were totally empty the day before. Sunday morning, every box had Tree Swallows on it, and one box even had a pair of Eastern Bluebirds. Bluebirds seem to have taken quite a hit during the cold snap this winter. I hope they rebound quickly. While the bluebirds played shy, the swallows at least posed for a few shots.


If you want a quick lesson in lighting considerations, here are some photos that demonstrate a couple of things nicely. First, the photos were all taken prior to 10 AM. So, the light is good and still highly directional. What I mean is that, give that it is still early in the year, at this hour the sun is still low in the sky; so, the light is coming from somewhat behind me instead of from overhead. I can use this to minimize shadows on the bird. The morning was sunny and bright. It is really was bordering on harsh though. The photos here are not exactly in the order they were shot. Take a look, makes some observations. Read on for my thoughts.

Starting, top/left. Lighting is decent. Again, the light is still directional light. I have misjudged the direction and mispositioned myself, though. See the harsh shadow under the limb? The light is coming in from my left fairly strongly. This is part of the danger of shooting on sunny days. You need to get the light behind you and onto the subject; unless you have other reasons for not doing that (eg. backlighting, etc.). The next two shots, I fixed this. Not bad, but the lighting is still a bit harsh in quality. Things are well lit, but the slightly higher/stronger light makes for more contrasted images. At least the shadows are handled. On a non-iridescent bird, this would be okay. The final image (bottom/right) is actually the first shot of the day. The sun is just coming up, it is very orange, but it is also much more diffused. It is more of a soft glow. This is quality, directional light. I have got the light behind me, and it is bright but soft. It makes for a much better image. This is what I like to shoot. This and bright/cloudy days.


The Mallards had wondered out of the ephemeral ponds and were enjoying a some of the puddles; I could not resist a couple shots.

All in all, it was a fairly slow day. I called it a day after the second set of swallow shots and headed home. I had plans for some lunchtime shooting through the week, though. More about that in the next post.


Thanks for reading,

Mike


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