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Old Oct 20, 2009, 11:23 AM   #1
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Default Sea Gulls and Others

The last day we were in Washington I spent the morning walking part way out Dungeness Sand Spit. It's a wildlife preserve and is known for its birds. For those that don't know, I'm not a very good birder, but I try when I get the chance. Up until recently I was using the manual focus A*300 lens for birds but recently splurged on the DA*300. This was my first opportunity to try shooting bird with an auto focus lens, and I readily admit that I'm not very good at it, or birding in general.

The day before I had been finding myself being too heavy on the shutter - many of my pictures showed camera shake. So, to try to compensate for that, I switched the camera to continuous shooting (also seemed appropriate with birds as a topic), to try to be lighter. That part really worked well - though I ended up with over twice the number of shots I would normally have, and then had the very slow process of going through them all, trying to decide which ones to keep (takes me forever as I have a tough time making choices by flipping a coin) when there's not much difference between them.

The sand spit is nothing but sand and driftwood. It's not too bad walking at low tide (when I started out) but much harder going as the tide came in and forced me into walking through deeper, less packed sand.



One side of the spit faces the Strait of Juan de Fuca, the other is a protected bay. They allow fishing in the bay.



Unfortunately, I didn't get many birds. I have a nice silhouette of a GBH, a cormorant, some backlit ducks, a diving bird that swims very low in the water also backlit and unidentifiable, along with some sea gulls.



That shot was a full frame picture, here's a crop.



Here's some more sea gulls:



And LOTS more sea gulls:



Birds do leave things behind:



There was even a bird of a different sort that flew by:



I had a good time in spite of the blister I rubbed and the lack of interesting birds. I was more pleased with the pictures I took this day than I was with the rest of the pictures I took during the week, even though I was visiting some world-class scenery. The DA*300 is an awesome lens, the auto focus with the K-7 was certainly fast enough to deal with these birds (though the shooter often had trouble acquiring and keeping the flying birds in her viewfinder!) - I could post lots more in-focus bird pictures but I won't bore you. Too often I "acquired" the bird after they had flown overhead and have only their tailfeathers to show. All of my problems came from my own inexperience/incompetence, rather than any failure/limitation of equipment. My final conclusion was that while the K-7/DA*300 combination gave me a higher success rate than shooting birds in flight with a manual lens, it still ain't easy!

Last edited by mtngal; Oct 20, 2009 at 10:58 PM.
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Old Oct 20, 2009, 12:25 PM   #2
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Thanks Harriet for a great series of photos.

It must have been a lot of fun walking along the dunes.

Have a great day.

Sarah Joyce
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Old Oct 20, 2009, 3:00 PM   #3
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Hi Harriet,

Excellent series!!!

#1 is just stunning, but I find the the small bit of land that juts out on the right a bit distracting. I also like the fisherman/net and the feather.

It's funny, and probably just me, but on #4, I get the impression that the white gull near the center of the frame is kind of casually looking at you, and the rest seem to show a fierce concentration on the direction that they're flying. Pretty cool!

Scott
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Old Oct 20, 2009, 4:01 PM   #4
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I like these a lot Harriet,
The colors look so natural too. Very nice!
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Old Oct 20, 2009, 11:14 PM   #5
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Thanks, Sarah and GW.

Scott - good catch, you are right. Which brings up the question, does one leave the annoying piece of land in the picture, because it is really there, or take poetic license and edit it out? My answer - see the revised picture now proudly posted, without the offending land blob.

That first one was a bit of a problem for me - it's an HDR created with Photomatix, and I struggle a bit trying to get the tone curve and saturation the way I want. Quite often Photomatix (at least the lightroom plugin that I've been using mostly) produces a picture a bit more saturated in certain colors (blue being one of them) than looks natural, and since it's primary purpose is to even out tones, adding dynamic range to a picture, it often will look a little flat at the default settings. So I'll usually use Lightroom to lower the saturation of blue and perhaps over-all also, and add contrast by adjusting the tone curve (start with checking out the built-in medium and strong contrast pre-sets). Since GW made the comment that the colors look natural, I must have done something right with it.

All others are pretty much just resized with a little last-minute sharpening due to the resizing, perhaps a little levels adjustment.

You aren't alone with the impression that the white gull is looking at me - I thought so too. In fact, I thought that it looked more like all of the other birds were flying off but that one was warily checking me out ("now what might she want?").

While I love the A*300 and it's still an awesome lens, the DA*300 is something really special. I'm planning on keeping the A*300 because it's much smaller and lighter than the DA* and will be useful for when I don't want to carry the size and weight, but I'm finding that I'm more willing to carry that weight than I had expected.
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Old Oct 21, 2009, 3:07 AM   #6
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All are really beautiful photos Harriet. Great color and contrast. Just wonderful.
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Old Oct 21, 2009, 6:55 AM   #7
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Some gorgeous photos of a lovely place! I think your HDR work came out just right - it obviously took much time and skill. The crowd of gulls (including the one looking at you) is great - well composed and full of action. But my favorite composition is the second one - just love that curve!
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Old Oct 21, 2009, 2:57 PM   #8
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Harriet, I can help you with the gulls in that flock - the three closest light ones are adult Glaucous-winged Gulls, the larger light one on the extreme right (partly obscured) is a subadult. The four darker ones (with two-toned wings) immediately surrounding the one looking at you are immature Glaucous-wings, as are two more immediately below them. The almost black ones - two on the lower right and two on the lower left are Heerman's Gulls, which I am somewhat surprised to see so far North. Three of those four are juveniles and the one on the far right with white edges on the wings and tail is an older individual. You can see both of those locally, but the Glaucous-winged will not be common this far south, but the Heerman's (which breed only in the Gulf of California) can be. I won't attempt the more distant out-of-focus individuals.

And the Gas Hawk is a Navy P3 Orion.
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Old Oct 21, 2009, 3:32 PM   #9
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Penolta - Thanks for the wealth of information about the gulls (and the Gas Hawk!). I find gulls confusing at the best of times, though they are always entertaining to watch. I have a picture of some that I don't know if they are juveniles or adults of a different type - I'll post a picture tonight. I wondered about them as their coloring wasn't quite the mottled juvenile coloring I'm used to seeing or the light grey/white of the adults. It's always fun to watch them and they are all over, so I probably should try to figure them out.
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Old Oct 21, 2009, 3:37 PM   #10
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The edit looks great Harriet, a nice wall hanger, imo.
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