…morning light is magic…

Black Skimmer Challenges & Rewards

The past couple weeks have challenged my patience and photography skills.  Headed to Bryan Beach last weekend in search for Black Skimmers after hearing that the water was drying up in the ponds, which helps to concentrate the fish and the birds.

One of the challenges at Bryan Beach is finding a place to park without getting your car stuck in the sand, which I’ve had lots of experience with over the past few years.  With my highly functioning brain waves, ended up getting stuck in the mud instead of the sand this time.  Saw some tracks where someone else had driven across what appeared to be dried out muck from the pond so I dove in and got stuck in the “wet” muck.  While sitting in the car with wheels spinning and contemplating my options, looked towards the birds in the pond and said the heck with my car.  It wasn’t going anywhere and the birds were begging to be photographed, which turned out to be easier said than done.

Experienced some of the most challenging shooting that I’ve seen while using my 500mm lens on a ground pod.  Even with using a gimbal head, there is a very limited range of motion available while lying down on the ground when shooting flying birds.  Skimmers fly with their beaks in the water to grab fish.  The challenges included acquiring the birds in the frame with the 500mm lens, getting them in focus while flying around other birds, getting a clean foreground/background and then getting the shot before running out of room to move the lens around.  Standing up would have been much easier but the shots wouldn’t have been as good.  There were hundreds of shore birds in this small pond so trying to get an isolated shot was almost impossible.

My 7D did fairly well but had some trouble with locking the focus on the quick moving Skimmers with the busy backgrounds.  Tried using different focus point options and ended up back with what I typically use, the single center focus point.  A 1D series Canon body would have fared much better but that is another expenditure for down the road, but a good excuse to get one someday.

The first day at Bryan Beach ended up with a couple of 32 gig cards full of skimmer shots, a very stiff neck and me calling a tow truck.  Almost had to call an ambulance after nearly having a heart attack when they told me that it would cost $150 to get may car pulled out of the mud.  Luckily a good Samaritan stopped by and pulled me out before I had to sell my first-born child to get out.  There are still good people out there and I’ve met lots of them in Texas.

Went back for two more days of Skimmer photography over the holiday, so more and better photos to come.

Taken with Canon 7D and Canon 500mm F4 IS II mounted on Skimmer ground pod with Wimberley II head

Here is a shot that shows how congested the pond is just before sunrise.

Bryan Beach_00107042013-2

1/400 sec @ F8, ISO 400, evaluative metering, -2/3 exposure compensation

Bryan Beach_52906302013-2

1/400 sec @ F8, ISO 400, evaluative metering, -2/3 exposure compensation

Bryan Beach_53106302013-2

1/500 sec @ F9, ISO 500, evaluative metering

Bryan Beach_79406302013-2

1/500 sec @ F9, ISO 500, evaluative metering

Bryan Beach_82506302013-2

11 responses

  1. This is some real shooting Tim. Love the early morning light on these.Finding a good background had to be tough, but once located you probably stayed put.

    I was tempted to go out there today, but just couldn’t pull the plug and decided to head to BBSP again.

    July 6, 2013 at 9:41 pm

  2. That low angle really makes those shots a lot better.

    July 7, 2013 at 12:11 am

  3. Well worth getting stuck! Some great shots for sure. On a side note – AAA, worth it for all the places we go.

    July 7, 2013 at 12:19 pm

  4. roselyn


    July 7, 2013 at 4:23 pm

  5. Thanks Doug. I’ve had to do some creative cropping on some of my other shots since there was often other birds in the way.

    July 7, 2013 at 5:59 pm

  6. Thanks Lyle. Getting down low makes all the difference in my opinion. I don’t like my standing up shots anymore.

    July 7, 2013 at 6:00 pm

  7. Thanks David. I did sign up for AAA before I made my second trip out there. Live and learn, with me being a slow learner apparently.

    July 7, 2013 at 6:01 pm

  8. Thanks Roselyn. Look forward to going shooting with you next weekend.

    July 7, 2013 at 6:02 pm

  9. Well Tim, I did find your photo’s overhere in the Netherlands and I find it very impressive how you took this pictures of this black skimmer, a beautyful bird, which is not easy from such a low point of shooting, but they turned out to be wonderful and spectuculair.

    Kind regards,
    Joep Krijnen

    July 26, 2013 at 3:43 pm

  10. Thanks Joep. It’s always interesting to see where people are from that visit my website. It’s a small world these days. Thanks for checking out my website and commenting.

    July 26, 2013 at 7:51 pm

  11. David

    Tim… Your images of the skimmers are terrific. What is the best time to photograph these birds? Thx

    June 25, 2015 at 10:33 pm

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