Monday, May 9, 2011

Marbled Godwits

Marbled Godwits by right2roam
Marbled Godwits, a photo by right2roam on Flickr.

Here is my favorite from some early morning bird watching a few months ago at Moss Landing State Beach on the California Central Coast. During my stay in California I kept hearing about the abundance of wildlife that congregates in the area around Elkhorn Slough. When the stars finally aligned and I was able to time a shoot at sunrise, I was not disappointed. This single visit also yielded presentable shots of otters, sea lions, and a Great Blue Heron.

I chose to share this shot partially because of the effort that went into it. First, there's that painfully early wakeup to catch the warm glow at sunrise. Then there's the equipment... I've chosen my gear collection so that everything fits into one medium sized Lowepro backpack, with a little extra space for lunch and some rain gear. I'm often on trails, scrambling up rocks, where weight and mobility are important.
I picked up a Canon EF 100-400mm f4.5-5.6L and a 1.4x converter. The lens has mixed reviews, but I find it suits me well. Combined with the converter its powerful enough and compact compared to a prime lens with the equivalent focal length. It takes some practice learning to work with its limitations, but overall I'm so glad I made the purchase.
Finally there was actually taking the shot. These little birds are skittish and fast, and on the tidal flat at Moss Landing there are no blinds or hides. After the first couple of shots I had the necessary ISO and shutter speed figured out, fast enough to stop any motion without losing too much detail. Then I spent a long while crouching as low as I could to the ground behind my tripod watching these little guys pull tiny crustaceans and worms out of the sand. The trick was moving slowly, finding a distance to shoot from that wouldn't make them uneasy.

Canon EOS 5D
Focal Length: 510mm
Aperature: f/13
Exposure: 1/400 second
ISO 400