Herring Gull, an adult in winter plumage, beside the harbour in St Ives, Cornwall; 20 Oct 2016.

I’ve been using my new Fujifilm X-T1 camera a lot of late, but there’s no doubt that where speed and accuracy of autofocus are concerned, it simply cannot compete with the systems on Nikon’s full-frame cameras.  Fujifilm’s new X-T2 may address these shortcomings – but whether I want to lay out £1800+ to get an X-T2 plus the power grip that will of course make this diminutive camera bulkier, is another matter.

And so, having been down to St Ives a few weeks back and been frustrated by the X-T1’s slow autofocus, I took both the X-T1 and Nikon’s D800 when we did a second trip to the southwest tip of Cornwall last week – because, if we were going to St Ives again, I wanted 100% autofocus efficiency in order to tackle the fast-moving gulls and Turnstones that are always a feature of the place.

A visit to St Ives duly materialised, we were in the harbour near the West Pier, and there was an adult Herring Gull sitting on the roof of a car.  The bird looked quiet and composed, not fazed at all by the many people hurrying close by.  It looked good for a close-in picture, but the first thing to do was examine what was visible behind it because, although close-in use of a long telephoto throws the background out of focus, any contrasty elements in that background may still have the potential to significantly spoil the shot.  I edged myself into a position where the background seemed unobtrusive.

I put the D800 into DX (APS-C) format, which magnifies the 300mm end of my telezoom to 450mm (= x9 magnification), brought the camera up to my eye, and advanced very, very cautiously and intermittently towards the bird.  I shuffled forwards, very quietly sliding my feet across the smooth pavement.  I didn’t go on until the bird flew, but was surprised at how close I got – and it continued sitting on top the car, looking relaxed throughout, even when the D800’s rather loud shutter started up.

AND THEN FOLLOWED SOMETHING COMPLETELY UNEXPECTED:  We bought hot snacks from a kiosk and walked on up the harbourside eating them, my wife leading the way.  A gull that had perched on the keel of an upturned boat started screaming madly at me, like some frenzied demon from the netherworld.  Well, I grew up beside the sea where gulls were always around and they don’t faze me at all, so I promptly screamed manically back at it >>> whereupon it fell off its perch, took flight and immediately attacked my wife, knocking her sausage roll from her hand onto the ground before going down on the roll in a savage feeding frenzy.  Whereupon a second gull launched a similarly frenzied attack on the first gull and the roll, and the people around us scattered left and right to avoid the mayhem!  As I tried, somewhat lamely, to explain to my wife later, it could have happened to anyone …

Click onto the image to open a larger version in a separate window.

D800 with 70-300 Nikkor lens used in DX format to give a 450mm telephoto; 400 ISO.

About Adrian Lewis
Photographer - using mono, colour and combinations of the two - many types of subject, including Minimalism, landscapes, abstracts, soft colour, people, movement, nature - I like to be adventurous, trying new ideas, working in multiple genres. And I've a weakness for Full English Breakfasts and Duvel golden ale, though not necessarily together.


  1. omg! You made him mad! lol! Like a crazy scene from that old Hitchcock film “The Birds!”


  2. bluebrightly says:

    Oh, I bet that explanation fell on deaf ears! Yikes! I think they had it planned all along! Great shot though….


    • Adrian Lewis says:

      Hahaha!!! I LOVE gulls! Walking on St Ives seafront, especially if carrying (hot and aromatic) food, must be something like being on the southeast coast during the Battle of Britain!


  3. Meanderer says:

    Wonderful portrait, Adrian – and I love the way you caused chaos in the middle of St Ives!


  4. LensScaper says:

    I really do apologize but I couldn’t resist laughing out loud as I read through the last paragraph! I could see it coming, not because it has happened to me, but I’ve heard stories of lunch stealing.
    I love the image. This is a bird that (to quote a human term) seems to have good posture, posing there as the ruler of the roost. Perhaps he was getting his own back for you taking his picture.


  5. steveo says:

    Nice photo Adrian! I hope you got your wife a new roll, and found a safe place to eat it.


  6. paula graham says:

    oh Dear, these pesky gulls…are not to blame. Lovely shot..but I wish them to stay away from me too!!


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