BIRDS 89 – YOUNG HERRING GULL

 

 

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Young Herring Gull on West Pier, St Ives, Cornwall; 20 Oct 2016.

This the bird already pictured here.

There are other recent gull shots here and here.

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

D800 with 70-300 Nikkor lens at 300mm; 400 ISO.
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BIRDS 88 – GULL YAWNING

 

 

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Gull yawning; St Ives, Cornwall; 20 Oct 2016.

This is most probably a Herring Gull.  The brown speckling on its plumage shows it to be a young bird, probably now just about to enter its first winter – it hatched from its egg this summer.

It was perched on the wall of the West Pier at St Ives, “loafing” as birdwatchers say.  Which means that it had had some food, that it wasn’t desperately hungry, so that it was just hanging around – while still no doubt keeping an eye out for any chance meal that might present itself.

I leant against the wall and, very gradually, inched my way towards it, keeping silent, compact and low.  It shuffled a little, it wasn’t quite sure about me (sensible bird!), but then it relaxed, and I started gradually capturing images.  I could have wished that the D800’s shutter was quieter but, on the plus side, its reliable autofocus did its usual excellent job, and I was able to concentrate on the images, rather than on whether they were sharp or not.

There are earlier images from this recent gull series here and here.

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

D800 with 70-300 Nikkor lens at 300mm; 400 ISO.
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BIRDS 87 – HERRING GULL 2 (MONO)

 

 

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Herring Gull, an adult in winter plumage, beside the harbour in St Ives, Cornwall; 20 Oct 2016 – the bird already shown in colour here.

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

D800 with 70-300 Nikkor lens at 300mm; 400 ISO; Silver Efex Pro 2, starting at the Fine Art High Key preset.
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BIRDS 85 – HERRING GULL, ST IVES – AND MAYHEM!

 

 

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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.
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ARCHIVE 248 – FOUR DESIGN ELEMENTS (MONO)

 

 

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Young Herring Gull, St Ives, Cornwall; 10 Oct 2013.

This is an immature bird, as shown by its very speckled plumage.  It was hatched last summer.

Its a simple shot of a bird overhead, but it has four conscious design elements.  First, use of black and white removes any distractions due to colour, rendering the image “basic and without frills”.  Then second, this simplicity has been enhanced by rendering the sky completely featureless and white – its the bird and nothing but the bird.

But while it may be the bird and nothing but the bird,  its not the whole bird.  Because as it shot overhead, I failed to perfectly track it and my shot cuts right through its left wing tip.  But, just by pure chance, the amputated end of the wing fits right into the frame’s lower left corner.  So, thirdly, there is a strong design element – the image’s strongest graphic element –  emanating from that lower left corner, and cutting diagonally right up across the frame.  There are two possibilities here – either this diagonal is headed from lower left to upper right, or vice versa.  Feeling my eyes entering this image – as they do most images (see earlier posts on this blog) – from the left towards the right, I’m happier with the left to right movement.

And there is also the argument that this diagonal is not moving at all.

And the fourth element is its torso, which cuts at a right angle, right through that diagonal.  This torso reminds me of a dart, with a sharp point at the front and feathered flights at the rear.  This being so, this second diagonal is moving from upper left towards lower right.

A further simplification of this image could be achieved by making it a silhouette, but I’m retaining its intricate plumage patterns.

D800 with 70-300 Nikkor lens at 300mm; 400 ISO; Silver Efex Pro 2’s Film Noir 3 preset.

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STILL LIFE 43 – STILL LIFE, IN FLIGHT 2 (MONO)

 

 

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Black-headed Gull, Herons Green, Chew Valley Lake, Somerset; 4 July 2016.

The year is changing.  Black-headed Gulls do not breed around Bristol and so, in spring, this normally common and noisy scavenger mostly disappears to its breeding grounds elsewhere in the UK.  But around now, in what we Brits loosely term “summer”, breeding plumage birds (with dark BROWN heads NB) start to reappear.  I’m glad to hear their shrill screams again and see their graceful, almost tern-like flight – and I know that their reappearance means that the year is moving on, if only a little.

I took the X-T1 down to Chew Lake to shoot birds in flight, but with little success.  This may of course have been due to my inexperience with this camera, but the electronic viewfinder just couldn’t seem to cope with the close in, high speed, frenzied action, whereas the Nikons’ optical viewfinders are far more up to it.  I don’t think that the X-T1 has been designed with this sort of photography in mind, but that’s fine because its so good at so many other things.  The X-T2, when it arrives, may be better at this kind of thing.

This is a still life image, a moving object made still by a camera shutter firing at 1/1600th of a second.   In the real world, this bird is flying.  But in the world of the imagination, this creature could … with its wings straining skywards above its fully spread tail … it could be dancing, or perhaps even jumping for joy.  It is just a question of how we want to see things.  The first of these flying still lifes can be found here.

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

X-T1 with 55-200 Fujinon at 305mm (equiv); 1600 ISO; Lightroom; Silver Efex Pro 2, starting at the Film Noir 1 preset.
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BIRDS 81 – COMMON GULL

 

 

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Common Gull, Chew Valley Lake, Somerset; 5 Feb 2016.

This is a medium sized gull, slightly larger than the winter-plumaged Black-headed Gulls seen around it here, but smaller than the distinctly meatier Herring and Lesser Black-backed Gulls that roar and ravage (as some would see it) over our countryside and, especially, our urban sprawls.

The rather weak, greenish bill is a good identification feature, especially amongst Black-headed Gulls, which have red bills when adult (one of which can just be seen here, on the right).

And, English bird names being what they are, this gull is never common, at least around here; and the Black-headed Gulls, when in breeding plumage, do in fact have dark brown heads.

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

D800 with 70-300 Nikkor at 300mm; 1600 ISO; Color Efex Pro 4.
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ARCHIVE 221 – FLIGHT (MONO)

 

 

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Black-headed Gull, Chew Valley Lake, near Bristol; 27 Sept 2013.

This picture is about shape and design.  The bird’s head and torso, and the root of its left wing, are squashed down into the lower left of the frame – and just about to leave the frame.  We just catch sight of the dark bill, eye and mark behind the eye, which serve to give the creature some structure and identity.

But the real subject of the shot is the streamlined wing that cuts a diagonal across the frame, to end in those dark, pointed flight feathers (primary flight feathers, as birders know them), the longest of which look like the long, black, manicured fingernails of a woman – the end of the wing reminds me of a set of sharp fingers reaching up against the sky.

Click onto the image if you would like to see a rather larger version in a separate window.

D800 with 70-300 Nikkor at 300mm; 800 ISO; Silver Efex Pro 2, starting at the Holga preset.

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BIRDS 80 – BLACK-HEADED GULLS FOR LYNN WOHLERS

 

 

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Lynn Wohlers (at bluebrightly) and I are WordPress bloggers who appreciate each other’s photography – and who are both ex-birders / birdwatchers.  And as Lynn tells me that she’s probably going to miss a Black-headed Gull in her local area – a rare bird in The States but a very common one in the UK – here are for her three at Chew Valley Lake, near Bristol, last Friday (5 Feb 2016).

We’d gone out for a little drive around on a wet and windy day and ended up in the car park of a café beside this large lake, where there were many of these small gulls weathering out the storm atop wooden fences.  The birds seemed unconcerned by our presence and so, before we went in for cakes and pots of hot tea, I took some pictures.  Rain was pouring across the car’s windscreen and I was shooting between the flailing windscreen wipers – catching the wiped screen just after each wiper had passed.

These are Black-headed Gulls in winter plumage.  The two on the right are adults, with grey and white plumage (+ some black around the wingtips) and the distinctive dark spot behind the eye (to birders, on the ear coverts); the legs and the base of the bill are reddish.  The bird on the left has some dark brown in its plumage – it began life last summer and is now changing from its immature plumage more towards the attire of a subadult.

So, Lynn, maybe not as good as seeing the real thing – tho you and I no longer relish standing around in freezing conditions so much hoping for glimpses of feathered friends – but, nevertheless, ENJOY!!!

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

D800 with 70-300 Nikkor at 300mm; 800 ISO.
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BIRDS 79 – PEERING IN FROM TOP LEFT

 

 

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Herring Gull; St Ives, Cornwall; 27 Sept 2012.

As in my previous post, this is an image produced with an eye to composition, to design maybe, rather than picturing this creature in terms of its natural history – when it might be shown in full and/or in its natural habitat.

The bird is shown in detail, dirty beak, “warts and all”.  But the backdrop is Minimal in the extreme, containing only that very faint, dark smudge, which is deliberately retained.

Otherwise, there is just a very thin dark frame to the image – containing it as an entity, closing it off – and the bird peering in from top left.

Looking at this, I could see a severed and suspended head but, liking a story with a happy ending, I’m assuming that “the remainder of the beast” is out to the left.

D700 with 70-300 Nikkor at 300mm; 800 ISO; Color Efex Pro 4.
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