While I was in Wales, my wife changed the destination for our summer holiday. Instead of heading south to the Bavarian Alpes for staying two weeks near the National Park “Berchdesgardener Land”, we were heading north to the Dutch province Groningen. Beach instead of mountains. Fair change in my eyes 🙂
But, what a surprise. No beach 🙂 Only a harbor for ferries and fishing boats. But, a huge lake with no tide and lots of birds was nearby. So, from a wildlife photographers point of view fantastic opportunities. But, this wasn’t her intention. So, she was quite disappointed with her choice although the area was very nice and offered many options for walking, hiking or biking, but no town nearby. The next shops were about 15 km away.
I also was a bit disappointed, because I left the lens, I usually use for wildlife, at home. I didn’t expect these conditions. So, I have to return 🙂 Is anybody out there willing to accompany me?
So, now tons of images are waiting on my hard-disk to get developed. Most of them are birds, but I also have many landscape images. Some of them are a mixture of both kinds, just like the one above: a flock of seagulls is chasing a spoonbill at sunset. In one of the next frames, you can see them attacking the spoonbill. But, I like this one more because of the light conditions.
When taking wildlife images, I use a technique called panning. The camera settings are continuous shutter speed, a fixed shutter speed depending on the kind of animal and expected action, fixed aperture (wide open), continuous auto-focus spreading over a couple AF fields and Auto-ISO with spot metering. The camera has an APS-C sized sensor and a tele-focus lens sitting on a monopod. These settings help me to get pretty sharp images even of flying birds. I start taking photographs in a certain moment and following the movement of the birds with my camera. That’s quite easy because it’s mounted on top of the monopod and follows my turns. So, I’m able to follow the movements of my main subject. Back at home, I have to view lots of images and many of them get deleted. But, this technique gives me the opportunity to not miss a shot.
The exact settings for the above image are: APS-C sensor, 1/1000, f5.6, 80-400mm lens at 280mm (~420mm equivalent for a 35mm camera or full-frame), ISO 500
Recently, I showed you an image of an in-flight bee fly. Although it was hard to capture that tiny insect with the long focal-length lens, it was not that hard as capturing this image of an in-flight swallow. Despite, bee flies are very small, their flight is kind of predictable. They are not flight that quick and they are not changing the directions abruptly. They also stay on nearly the same level above the plants.
Barn swallows instead are flying very quickly because they are hunting flying insects and thus changing their flight direction and hight unpredictable. Compared to this, the bee fly simply ‘stands still’ in the air, although she was also constantly moving.
This image is from early April and I was very surprised to see a barn swallow so early. The air was still cold (below 10°C). As far as I know, that’s the minimum temperature for insects to be able to fly.
There were years when swallows came back from the south too early when the air was still cold. The air had temperatures too cold for insects to fly which resulted in hungry swallows. Hunting for flying insects was without results, because of the cold. So they were forced to walk around and pick plant lice from the bushes because they were too weak to fly from all the unsuccessful hunts. A friend of mine, a nature conservationist, reported that year swallows simply falling off the sky. They died of hunger while flying.
I was in that place before and met hundreds of swallows. But, it was June and warm. So I was surprised to see one (two on the next day).