Professional Photographer and TTSS Photo-of-the-Month host Greg Smith says:
Stu’s image of the two Trumpeter Swans in flight with the sunset-tinged snow on Mt. Baker in the background shows how a very effective use of the camera’s ISO (the international standard measurement of sensitivity at which your camera’s sensor reacts to light when the shutter is open) can enhance the lighting on a photograph. The position of the swans in the photograph also gives a feel for some of the hardships these birds face in the wild!
As Stu mentions below, the light was fading fast in the last few minutes prior to the sun slipping below the horizon for the day. We all know this light as the “sweet” light, but there are challenges photographing your subject in these low light situations, especially if you want some detail.
Stu’s knowledge of ISO allowed him to adjust his camera’s sensor to accept more light, thereby creating a more realistic lighting of the birds. If shot at the “usual” 100 ISO (my standard ISO setting is 200), your camera would probably take the photo at 1/15 second, thereby creating a blurred, or out-of-focus photograph. Bumping the ISO up to 2000 allowed Stu to increase his camera’s sensitivity to light and have a sharper image. (One thing to remember about bumping up the ISO, the higher the ISO, the granier the pixels can look on most cameras – more on that in future articles).
Stu was already aware of the lighting on Mt. Baker, which allowed him to concentrate on positioning the swans. Stu used the darkened ridge in the foreground and the two trees silhouetted in the sky to create a frame for the birds. The trees and the ridge effectively bring the viewer’s eye right to the swans in front of Mt. Baker!
Even without Stu’s comments about time of year, we know these birds are surviving in a winter (the deciduous trees) scenario that involves lots of snow (Mt. Baker). This is a harsh environment for sure.
All of this points to Stu’s knowledge of his camera’s mechanical limitations, the potential views of one of his favorite photographic sites, and his own capabilities to create an outstanding photograph on the spur of the moment!
Featured Photographer for October, 2011 – Stu Davidson, State of Washington
Stu Davidson is a lifelong native of the Pacific Northwest and now resides in just outside of Snohomish, Washington. He is a retired software Engineer of thirty years, is currently pursuing his lifetime passion of photographing nature and wildlife.
You can view more of his wildlife and Trumpeter Swan photography at: www.StuDavidsonPhotography.com
About the Photo:
From Stu: “Each winter I spend a good deal of time driving north from Snohomish to the Skagit Valley area of our state. The Skagit Valley, just south of Mount Vernon Washington, is an incredibly pristine area to see and observe large numbers of migratory birds. The birds that draw me to the area to photograph include: Bald Eagles, Golden Eagles, Hawks, Snow Geese, Canada Geese, Blue Herons, Tundra Swans, and Trumpeter Swans.
This particular shot happened at the end of another great day of photographing wildlife in the Skagit Valley. Being winter, and getting late in the day, I was losing light quick! I began packing up my equipment to head home when I noticed the last of the day’s light lit Mount Baker in a nice soft hue, I thought “one last photo” before driving home. Because of the low light, I adjusted my camera’s ISO to 2000. As I began to position for a shot of Mount Baker, I caught a glimpse out the side of my eye of some large birds coming into “position”.. I recall feeling that my lucky day was continuing! A pair of Trumpeters on a landing approach graced my viewfinder!!
Photo taken: January 1, 2011 @ approximately 4:30pm
Equipment – Nikon D300s – Nikon 200-400 F/4.0 VR zoomed to 400mm
Aperture Priority – f/4.0, ISO – 2000”
We are pleased that Stu was willing to share this “keeper” shot in support of Trumpeter Swans and The Trumpeter Swan Society.