A portrait of a Pacific Gull

Started Dec 20, 2013 | Photos thread
OP Martin.au Forum Pro • Posts: 12,857
Re: A portrait of a Pacific Gull

GeorgianBay1939 wrote:

Martin.au wrote:

GeorgianBay1939 wrote:

I really like the photograph.

IMHO it is one of the better one in this excellent collection of bird shots.

I guess that I am more of a student of nature than a photographer, though, as I like the preening feathers in the beak as it adds to the "naturalness" of the image.

Some of my commercial photographer friends have commented that some of my bird shots that show preened fluff floating on the water or in beaks, wing tags, leg bands etc on rare-ish birds to be inadequate because of these "distractions". In fact one fellow tried to convince me to post-process them out of the image. I declined to follow his urgings for several reasons, one being that I don't have a clue how to do that!

Why? Is it the commercial motivation to cater to a clientele that demands asepsis in our imagery?

Did you purposely use the term "portrait" to stimulate that reaction?

I also like your technical mastery. Compared to my long shots you have minimal noise in the image, outstanding detail, contrast and exposure .... even to the bit of specular reflection on the eye and beak.

How far was this gull from you? How much of a crop?

Pretty close. I only cropped out some of the sky, down to around 10MP. It was probably only 4m away or so. I used the term portrait because usually I try and frame the whole bird, rather than just the head.

WTH do you do to get in that tight? Are you a bird whisperer? 4m is amazing!!!

Well, these gulls spend a lot of time around the jetty and are used to scraps from fisherfolk, etc, so getting close to them is pretty easy. With other birds it's a case of reading them. Birds that spend time in urban environments are usually pretty approachable. eg: those fantails were on occasion inside the minimum focus length of that lens (1.5m).

The other thing I do is try to avoid "sneaking up on birds". I try to approach them in an obvious fashion, as though I were a grazing animal, rather than a predator, often spiralling in towards them as though I was just walking past. Or, get close and then proceed to "ignore them" until they get comfortable with you being there.

Finally, with some birds you just have to wait, or use a hide (I haven't done that yet).

These were shot at long distances and are heavily cropped --- displaying plenty of noise and camera blur. The swan and grouse were "provisional shots" ... the first one(s) I make when I first see the critter ... before stopping to change lenses or make significant adjustments to the camera (whilst the deer, moose, bear, wolf, or bird disappears over the horizon!)

I notice that you have outstanding detail in most of the images in the album above. How do you DO that? I cannot imagine capturing those shots off of a tripod (unless you were in an aviary). Are you monopoding or just propping?

For most of my shots, I'm just handholding. The main tricks I use are:

1) Try and get close to the bird (duh :D). Birds are finely detailed creatures and you need to get as many pixels on them as possible. So, the wrens, honeyeaters, fantails, lorikeets are often shot from pretty close range. The hawks are usually further away, and as such don't have as much detail, typically.

I am starting to put more feeders in the bush on my farm and hope to spend some time "observing' this winter. But we already have abnormal snow, so access is now a prob.

2) Keep the shutter speed up. I use 1/1250 as a start and only drop that if I am really running low on light. If it's bright, then I'll keep the aperture wide open, as there's zero difference between f6.7 and f8 on my lens and just crank the shutter speed. This is not really to compensate for camera shake. I can handhold the 75-300 down to 1/50th or so, but a lot of birds are really twitchy.


3) Try and keep the sunlight behind me. When I go for a walk, I'll usually walk into the sun via the boring route, then loop back with the sun behind me, where the birds are likely to be.

Thanks. good strategy...

4) Think outside the box. The fantails in particular are actually illuminated with fill flash, as it was so dark that day. I often carry a variety of bits of kit with me on walks. Sometimes I even remember that I've got things like the little FL300R.

Hmmm. More stuff in the pack! But very useful around teh house, in the truck and in the boat!!!

Thanks for posting that particular shot and those in your albums. They give us beginners some examples to try to emulate.


Thank you.


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