Saturday, 16 April 2011
Swans in flight
Greetings once again from Whitehorse!
The trumpeter swans continue to arrive en masse as they make their way northwards to their summer breeding grounds throughout the Yukon and into Alaska. Each year, in early spring, the swans make a brief 10-day stopover at Marsh Lake (and surroundings) where they rest and fatten-up on aquatic roots and other plants before they resume their journey northwards. As of Friday biologists have observed at least 400 swans in the region (a far cry from last year's record of 2000+ individuals).
My goal for this weekend was to try and capture the beauty and elegance of their flight with my camera and 300mm lens - not an easy task as I have discovered. Constantly changing light conditions (thanks to the clouds), an unpredictable flight path and keeping a steady hand while using the large lens were some of the challenges I faced as I tried to snap crisp images within a short time frame.
One of the best places to photograph the swans in flight is from the Tagish River Bridge. This morning I counted well over 100 swans feeding and swimming on both sides of the small bridge. Every hour or so (sometimes much longer) a pair would fly overhead forcing me to scramble to get into position for a good shot - no worries, there was very little traffic on the bridge.
All in all I spent close to 4 hours today observing the swans feed, swim, rest and communicate with each other. I did notice a few pairs calling and bobbing their heads together in unison (supposedly a behaviour used to strengthen pair bonding). I did manage to photograph a few fly-overs along with 8GB worth of behavioural images - some of those will be posted in the coming days.
I'm pleased with my results as this was my first attempt photographing birds in flight. There's still oodles to learn - lets see what tomorrow brings.
Camera settings for the day:
- Vibration Reduction set 'on' (a similar function appears in Canon cameras)
- camera set at Aperture Priority, Continuous High and underexposed by a full-stop (for sunny days this will avoid blowing out the whites in feathers)
- f/stop between 5.6 to 8
- ISO 250 (will try for a bit higher tomorrow to obtain a faster shutter speed)
- spare batteries as the VR function takes its toll on batteries
- 16GB memory card (will record over 700 images in RAW)