Spilling over the horizon first thing in the morning, the sun makes its presence felt in the way that it send shadows scurrying, highlighting details and bringing tone and form to the previous dark shapes.
It also creates a variety of moods and colours as it marches its inevitable track to the other horizon, to then slip silently, but forcefully over the horizon and leave behind a soft mellow afterglow that drapes and melds over the landscape and our subjects.
Mid-morning to mid-afternoon provide sunlight that brings qualities of contrast, detail, and colour. On a cloudy day, the harsh shadows are suppressed bringing another mood into play.
Working with terns is one of those times where getting the light right is as much a challenge as filling the viewfinder with the bird.
When I first started bird-photography, the people I travelled with called id on what appeared to be two seperate species. “Whiskered Terns” and “Marsh Terns.” For many months, I ticked off both on my list thinking I was seeing two distinct species and not seeing, ‘whiskers’ on any of them, I wondered what I was missing.
One particular evening I spoke to my mentor at the time and asked how to tell the difference. “Oh,” she replied, “they are the same bird they just have had a name change and some of us oldies still refer to them as Marsh.
Defeated by nomenclature!
When it comes to working with these birds, my dear old Mum’s “Keep the Sun over your Left Shoulder, Dear” when using the family box-camera still holds good. Thanks Mum.
Early morn, or late afternoon works well for me, as it gives angular light under the wings. The only challenge to all that is the bird will have its wing in the wrong place and I’ll have the face in shadow. And as they change direction so quickly, it’s not always apparent until I get to view the shot as to how successful it was.
They also smack the water so fast that as I follow them down its hard to keep up with the sudden stop of the bird and keep panning down into just open water.
Missing the impact completely.
Like all thing photographic, some practice is the order of the day.
Meanwhile a pocketful of luck doesn’t hurt either.
As we begin our next trip around the sun, I hope that 2022 brings you some relief from the trauma of the past year and some excellent opportunities for fine images of our birds.