It’s morning – the sun just breaking. Then I heard it. EEEEEK!! EEEEEK!!.
Looking around the building toward the sound. Nothing. Then the EEEEEEEEEEEK! EEEEEEEK!! again. I grab my camera, for surely the Osprey will appear.
Osprey, Pandionidae, for Pandion, of Greek legend, King of Athens, father of Philomena and Procne. One of the most widledy distributed birds in the world – lives in Europe, Asia. south to Spain, Africa, China, the Est Indies, and Australia, also the Western Hemisphere within limits of N. America (does not breed sough of Baha, CA – feeds almost exclusively on fishes, also called the fish eating hawk.**
Coffee in hand Camera bag in the other, I head toward the dock. Our motel is on Boca Ciega Bay in Treasure Island, FL. I had never witnessed Osprey here; but, I knew that shriek.
Out comes the camera, — Then I spot him – High up about 100 feet, circling, head always looking down scanning the water for prey. circling, circling lower, then up again.
Suddenly it’s in a dive …
The Osprey dive for fish can be nearly 80 miles per hour straight down, feet out to the back, head forward, pulling up slightly for talons to go first entering the water to impale the fish.** My continuous shutter following him all the way in…
Then raising powerfull wings with fish grasped with both feet, pausing in midair to shake off water from its plumage and to arrange fish with head pointed forward, which reduced resistance to air, then with powerful flapping of wings back to the nest.**
The camera used for this experience was purchased in anticipation of birding opportunities, but it had been two years since this kind of situation presented itself. The Nikon D300 DX body with it’s continuous focus worked great with the Nikkor 80-20omm f2.8 lens, although it did require almost 500 exposures to get the ones needed. I’m looking forward to more practice opportunities. The images were shot at Aperture Priority, Aperture set at f/8 and mostly the shutter speed adjusted automatically around 1/280 sec. with continuous auto focus and matrix metering.
**Source: Audubon Society Encyclopedia of North American Birds by John K.Terres
PS. When planning a certain or possible shooting set ups we use Pre -visualisation. Essentially, having been in that shooting position before, one knows the problems that might come up – erratic & fast flying swoops, overhead shooting, hand holding as on tripod would be too slow to follow the birds flight patterns, changing exposures, and different focal lengths.
Knowing those would be my possible situations, I would NOT select my wide angle lens, as it would not reach out far enough to capture the details required in the subject (bird). I would need fast tracking focus and I would need to hand hold the camera.
I selected my 80-200mm f/2.8 lens for its very fast and accurate focusing; but, also these features…
* Telephoto to 200mm but also to be able to adjust the focal length range to 80mm – should the subject all of a sudden swoop closer.
Once determing the best lens for the situation, I have to set the camera and lens for the challenge…
* Knowing I could easily loose track of the subject, I changed my normal setting from “center weighted focus” to “matex” metering – a much broader field of view and especially if the subject changed direction quickly. Sometimes a part of the subject can be used but it would still have to be relatively sharp. *Note: I’m also thinking possible story here, not just an excellent picture of the subject. It’s helpful to capture as much behavior as possible.
* Aperture priority would provide me with a faster control during changing lighting conditions – not a place for manual operation. *Note: Why not set the camera for shutter speed priority? Because in my opinion depth-of-field would be more important in this situation, although an argument could be made for Shutter Priority also, and allowing the camera to select aperture automatically.
But to be safe, and to determine the best Aperture for the ambient light I would need to do
a quick test. Opening the Aperture all the way – in this case f/2.8, I made a test exposure. The shutter Speed at that exposure would be 1/800 sec. – plenty for the situation but I wanted to have more Depth of Field. Judging from past experience, how well the lens performed at minimum shutter speed, and the fact that the bird would float in the air at times, I decide to set the Aperture at f/8. That reduced my Shutter speed to 1/100 sec. – challenge but I went with it.
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