Friday, March 14, 2014

New Life

Spring is just around the corner, and new life is popping up everywhere. This black-necked swan cygnet was born less than a week ago and is already looking eager and ready for the future.

During the first couple of weeks of life, they often ride on a parent’s back, as well as swim on their own, and appear to live the good life.

These are captive birds and live in a breeding facility in North Carolina, so they are fed and are protected from predators. Even so, life is not easy. The nest had 5 eggs, but only 2 hatched and only this one survived.

I started out the day hoping to get some shots like this, but nature’s creatures are unpredictable and you never know exactly what will happen or when. After waiting for an hour for them to come within range of even a long 200-400mm lens, it was another long wait for the little one to hop on for a ride. It almost immediately snuggled itself well under it’s mother’s wing, making it nearly invisible. Then another long wait for it to perk up and sit atop her back. I had arrived at the location around 9AM, and it was not until around 3PM that I was able to get this shot.

It was a long wait, but very well worth it. There were other birds to photograph in the meantime. And I knew when I arrived that it could be a long wait and I was prepared to tough it out.

One of the basic rules of nature photography is to be prepared to wait. And wait. And wait. Patience is a virtue in these situations, but it can be tough. 

The other tough issue was exposure. The black feathers were very dark, and on this bright sunny day the white feathers were very brightly lit. HDR is generally not successful with wildlife because they are in constant motion, so I had to find an exposure that would cover all bases from black to white. The blacks were a little underexposed and the white feathers overexposed. But by carefully watching the Histogram I could find an exposure that would minimize the over- and underexposures, and allow me to use Lightroom later to extract the details in both the blacks and the whites.

Shutter Speed 1/500 sec.  Aperture f/11.  ISO 400.  Lens: Canon 70-200 mm f/4L IS, set at 200mm.  Camera: Canon 5D Mark III.  Handheld.

TODAY’S QUOTE: “He that can have patience can have what he will.”  --Benjamin Franklin

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