Now I’ve spoken about poor lighting conditions in the past, but they’ve usually involved little to no light, be it the darkness of the forest or dark overcast conditions. But these days, we’re only getting the exact opposite. The sun starts to burn just an hour after sunrise. And for the rest of the day, there seems to be no respite. Even the clouds seem to be avoiding the searing glare of the sun.
For us photographers, this means that very quickly, images start to look harsh and unpleasant unless one is careful and mindful about the direction the lens is pointed. It’s easy to grab a few shots that end up being horribly side-lit. Speaking of which, a few weeks ago a resplendent male Long-billed Starthroat perched right in front of me, in the worst light ever. I am still dying for a view of that rich red gorget! I noticed that although the side-light didn’t highlight colours, it worked wonders with the textures within the frame. A conversion to black and white was in order, to further emphasize the textures of the bird.
Backlit images have a special place in my heart, but as the sun rises higher in the sky it can burn the detail out of already bright whites. When I saw this Little Blue Heron – yes, it’s not an egret, but a young Little Blue that is now getting its blue feathers – I was tempted to just continue on my way, windows up, air condition pumping (it was hot). But one thing jumped out at me. Just behind the bird, ripples on the water were producing these bright specular highlights that guaranteed a magical image …if only the subject would cooperate.
Trust me, if I was shooting film I would’ve never bothered. But, I dropped my ISO and went to work. All my shots were of a plain bird in a lovely setting, except for this one split-second moment, when it showed us a fleeting glimpse of its personality. Looks a bit miserable if you ask me.
Most times the trick of shooting with the sun at your back works. Shooting birds in water has the added advantage of the water being an additional source of light. If you look carefully, you’d see two catchlights in the eye of this Greater Yellowlegs. One from the sun, one from its reflection.
Funny how a quick shake and fluff out can transform a bird.
Take the reflector out of the equation and it’s even more crucial to have the sun work for – and not against – the photographer. Juvenile birds are decidedly more trusting than adults, and on this particular morning we recorded almost ten Savannah Hawks in the open fields of Caroni. True to form, adults were quick to make an exit. This young bird seemed more intrigued by us, however. We skirted along the outside of the field and got tremendously lucky with a small opening in the brush coinciding with the perfect angle to shoot in bright sun.