Nature Photograph — Black Skimmer

Myakka River State Park is home to many species of birds and other wildlife. One day these birds were noticed swooping low on the water. The photographer identified them as black skimmers using his handy Audubon field guide. The bird skims the water with its beak open to capture its food. This shot was the best of the bunch.

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Camera settings

  • ISO setting 320: The ISO was increased in order to get a faster shutter speed.

  • Exposure compensation 0 EV: The camera gave a good exposure that yielded images with saturated colors. This is one of the benefits of shooting in late afternoon when the light is diffused and a warm golden color.

  • Focal length 480mm: The bird was fairly close to shore, but he’s also a fairly small bird. The long focal length gave me the reach needed.

  • Aperture f/6.3: This aperture gave a sufficient depth of field to reveal detail on the bird and a fast shutter speed.

  • Shutter speed 1/1000 of a second: A fast shutter speed was needed so that the photographer could handhold the camera and freeze the bird’s motion. Continuous Drive mode was used to take a series of shots and Continuous Auto-Focus so that the camera would update focus as the bird flew.

Composing the image

When you photograph birds in flight, all you can do is point the camera and hope for the best. Fortunately, the bird was flying at a slight angle toward the photographer. He panned the camera with him and snapped several shots. This one lined up perfectly.

Post processing

The saturation was increased slightly, especially the reds to make the bird’s beak stand out. Minimal cropping was applied to tighten the composition.

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