The Gannet Colony offered so many possibilities for photos that I thought I’d show a second line of the images.
I used the D7100 with a 300mm f/2.8 and a TC 1.4 Teleconverter. The camera/lens was mounted on a tripod, with a Wimberley Gimbal Head. This setup makes the camera quite weightless to use. And it can be turned at an amazing speed to keep up with most inflight. I have to spend a couple of minutes getting it aligned horizontally, so it spins around in line with the horizon. It also allows me to let the camera go, and it will remain pointed at that spot. (unless off course in a high wind, when it acts more like a wind vane, but that is one of ‘benefits’.
The weather was overcast, squally, high wind and dreadfully poor light. I ran at both 400 and 800 ISO, and all those with the new Full Frame cameras, will go “Nah, neh nar nee nar!” but I can deal with that. Mostly I never shoot no Multi-burst. First and foremost, my bird photography doesn’t need it, and I see no future in having 25 shots of the same bird on the same perch with only minimal differences. If the differences are that good, then my one shot will get it anyway.
The 300mm f/2/8 is down to f/4 with the TC and I usually stop down to f/5.6. No real reason, just old photo dude stuff. The actually depth of field gain is negligible over the short distances I work. If I want great dof, I’ll use a 12mm lens and stand up really close to the bird.
What became intriguing as I settled in to working with these birds was the size of the nesting flock. There was literally no gaps between nesting birds. What was even more interesting was that the returning bird had no trouble picking out its mate nor its landing spot. No, ‘Oh, where did I leave her/him? I wish he/she had a red umbrella so I could find them.” Nope, just fly over, point your beak down and land on the right spot. Super.
Invariably there would be some mutual ‘petting’ go on between them, and the resting bird did not always fly off immediately. Some were still in nest building mode and carried in the most amazing collection of seaweed and grasses to beautify the home. No widescreen tv or coffee machines.
When the resting bird took to the air, they all gave a similar ritual of shaking themselves mid air, or ‘running’ in the air. Perhaps a muscle relief thing. There was a constant coming and going and I have to confess that once I got into the groove it was easy to run off 15-20 frames on one bird as it swept in from the sea, or the rituals that happened on land. In Tia Chi, Master Lam would call that “Chen, or sinking, and Hou – agility, just to keep up with them. Thanks Doc.
Off course I had to edit them and the out of focus ones were minimal. And because of the Wimberley, hardly one that was a camera shake error. Quite a few were poorly framed as the birds sweep in on the wind at such a pace, and the best technique would be hard pressed to keep up with them, especially as many were well under 10m from camera.
From my camera position there was a little extent of deep blue sea beyond the cliff face and I tried really hard to get the birds against that narrow blue strip for a contrast. But, the small angle of the blue, the speed and my inability led to many that didn’t quite make the grade. I even tried hand-held at one stage, but tired quickly in the biting cold rain/wind.
My gear is protected by Lens Coat, and LensWrap. Both are waterproof, and I wasn’t concerned by the gear getting wet. Had it turned to a complete continuous deluge, I’d have probably retreated anyway.
Because the area is out in the open, not trees or shrubs, the light was still good enough to work with higher shutters speeds, and many were 1/1600th or above. So stopping action was moderately easy.
Here is a sample from the day, enjoy