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Blue Hour Birding

It’s that time when most of us are experiencing the best sleep of the night, that time when covers are pulled, alarms are snoozed and minds wander around in dreamland. For us chasing feathers, however, we’re experiencing the awakening of the forest. Completely magical feeling, and all images created during this time have one underlying common factor. Apart from the darkness that still clings desperately to wherever it can. Not like darkness in itself is a bad thing – it creates mood like nothing else can.

rufous vented chachalaca










About a minute after the Rufous-vented Chachalaca appeared and disappeared, a White-tipped Dove flew in and perched in the same spot, just facing the opposite direction. The difference this made in terms of light is amazing. Of course, the dove’s plumage is considerably lighter, but with camera settings and subject distance being more or less identical, the direction the bird faced was the major separator. Not sure how much more light appeared between 6:01 am and 6:02 am.

white tipped dove-2







A little later, 6:15 am to be exact, I made this image of a Trinidad Motmot. I had never noticed their flight feathers looking so neon blue before. I mean I know that they’re blue, butĀ thisĀ blue? More on this later.

trinidad motmot-2










One sure thing about sleeping in nature is that you never need an alarm clock. You have nature’s alarm system working for you – raucous calls of the Rufous-vented Chachalaca (Cocrico) as well as Orange-winged Amazons are guaranteed to rouse even the deepest sleepers. It’s interesting to note that while some species of birds spend the first waking minutes calling to each other, preening themselves and stretching – others wake up hungry and decide to waste no time whatsoever.

orange winged amazon-3






Sooner or later, the sun begins to filter through the canopy and gently touch everything with its golden warmth. If you look carefully, you can see the first hints of direct sunlight on the edges of the foliage here, as well as on the wings of this symbol of Tobago – a White-tailed Sabrewing.

white tailed sabrewing-12










Before long, the blue hour gives way to the golden hour – neither of which lasts anywhere close to an hour – that’s our hand of cards we’re dealt with being residents of the tropics. Anyway, have you figured out what was the commonality across these five images? Apart from the fact that they’re all birds (genius), the images all have a mild to moderate bluish cast to them. Some photographers seek to “correct” this in post processing, sending colour temperature upwards of 7000K. I prefer not to. For the reason that this is the blue hour. This is magic time. This is when a fast moving bird will still appear as a blurry image to the naked eye because we haven’t completely adjusted to daylight yet. Everything is blue because there is no direct light, the sunlight scatters across the sky, turning it from black to blue – and it is this giant blue diffuser that lights everything. All blues just seem bluer.

And I love it.


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