I have been back in Miami, Florida almost five years. During this time, my son kept telling me, take up bird photography. Over the years we have gone birding at Vieira Wetlands several times, close to where he was going to School. Vieira Wetlands is about 3 hours north of Miami. After procrastinating, I decided to “shoot where we are” and give it a try. So, from my son’s encouragement coupled with a dear friend asking me for images of pelicans (one of my favorites), here is diary of sorts, from my new path of shooting, “birding” and practicing.
I reviewed my equipment of which I have too much, and as it turns out, had what I needed, Canon 100-400 (which I upgraded to a Canon 100-500mm RF) and a Canon 5drs (which I upgraded to a Canon R5). Also, a Leica SL2 and the 24-90mm.
So, I go out now once a week to one of the numerous wetlands within a 2-hour radius, with two cameras with their respective lens. The Leica is generally used for landscapes and sometimes for “portraits”. I keep a B+W HTC polarizer on the Leica, as with the fantastic In Body Image Stabilization (IBIS), I can afford to give up one stop and still shoot at a 50 or 100 iso, for nice clean shots and the maximum dynamic range. Keep in mind South Florida has great sunshine and BLUE skies, with unusually great clouds. Wetlands have water; a polarizer makes a lot of sense, to minimize the specular reflections off the water and enhance some colors.
The Canon I use with the bare lens, as I need that stop, usually trying to keep the iso below 1000 and for birds in flight a shutter speed of 2500, or 3200. The f stop is dictated by these two primary factors, the lens has a variable maximum f stop dependent on the focal length of 4.5 – 7.1. The camera tracks beautifully, and image quality is great, the IBIS works great in conjunction with the native lens. I set the camera up for tracking and still shots and is always on manual exposure. What must be kept in mind is that you need to expose for the shadows and sometimes for the highlights, of the subject you want to isolate.. This helps in three ways, the complexity of the color in the bird’s body, when that color is dark, or silhouetted against a bright sky, and lastly, there is nothing worse than blowing out the beautiful delicate white feathers on a wood stock, egret, or pelican. Hence no polarizer.
Bears mentioning at this point, there are many times, I have plugged shadows and blown highlights on the same bird. Even with image shot form 25 feet away. Sooo, this is where iso means more than just noise. On the Canon, which is usually set to iso 1000, (this gives an acceptably clean image, allowing a higher shutter speed etc.). The dynamic rage of the Canon at iso 100 = 11.25 stops, vs iso 1000 = 8.8 stops (about 75% or in other terms, the best dynamic rage of the best digital camera in 2005) So, less detail at the extreme ends of the exposure. The more dynamic range: the more detail in the extreme highlights and the extreme shadows, just something to consider.
I must say, practice, practice, practice! You must feel comfortable with your equipment. Practice in photography is just as important as golfing or playing tennis 2-3 times a week, also instruction and tips as the aforementioned, is also key to improving, practicing badly makes you really good at being bad.
Also, birds are cool, and it is nice being outside this time of year in South Florida and it is quiet, also birds do not threaten you when take the image, which is endemic to the people in South Florida. It is interesting when you really look at birds, the colors and shapes, also they are old, as in dinosaur old.
So, this is the Preface to this journey, we will learn about the different wetlands and discover different birds, which so far include.
|Wakodahatchee Wetlands||Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge|
|Green Cay Wetlands||Wellington Environmental Preserve|
|Loop Road||Ritch Grissom Viera Wetland|
|Helen and Allan Cruickshank Sanctuary||Loxahatchee Wetlands|
|Peaceful Waters||Harold Campbell Day Use Area|
|Key Biscayne||Rookery Davie|
|Reynolds Park||Beaches in South Miami|