The Trumpeter Swan Society February 2011 Photograph of the Month

Trumpeter Swans in Flight by Hal Everett

Professional Photographer and TTSS Photo-of-the-Month host Greg Smith says:

Hal’s flight shot of five swans against a dark sky with rapidly changing lighting shows how planning, knowing the capabilities of your camera and looking for the appropriate composition create an exceptional photograph.

From my perspective, a photograph with a well illuminated subject in front of a dark background just makes the subject “pop” out of the picture.  This is a stunning example of that technique.

As a photographer you get to choose the type of lighting you want (or hopefully will get) for your subject, so you need to be aware of changing conditions and where best to take advantage of what is offered you. Hal had the foresight to use his local knowledge of where to find the swans and then to position himself in a situation where the sun was at his back and the dark clouds were away from his position.

If you read Hal’s write up on his camera settings you will see he is a fan of high speed photography.  An exposure of 1/3200 second would require a great deal of ambient light, or, you bump your ISO up, which is what Hal did.  The higher the ISO you set your camera on, the faster the exposure you can shoot.  So most of us shoot at 100 or 200 ISO and our exposure would have been 1/500 of a second.  The extra fast speed allows for a much sharper image, something Hal used to the photograph’s advantage.

Taking a number of shots is a necessity to get the right composition with flying bird (although it can happen with a single shot).  As you follow the birds through your viewfinder you are always looking for the opportunity to have each bird’s head visible in the shot.  There is nothing worse than having a great shot turn into a not-so-good shot because of a headless bird.  Setting your camera on a burst mode is one way to ensure that you can fire away, which enhances the chance of coming up with a stunning composition like Hal’s

Hal shows his knowledge of the subject, the capabilities of his camera and the patience and timing to create an outstanding photograph!

Featured Photographer for February, 2011 – Hal Everett, Western Washington

I have been a serious amateur wildlife and underwater photographer since 1992 have won a competition in both categories.   My favorite avian subjects are Trumpeter Swans and Peregrine Falcons.  I live in Western Washington, where both of these species winter in substantial numbers.   I am a member of The Trumpeter Swan Society and participated in a Trumpeter Swan rescue in 2010.

I  located a large flock of Trumpeters in a cornfield late in the afternoon of 11/26/2010 while searching in Snohomish County, WA.  I positioned myself  West of the Swans.  To the East were many dark clouds stacked up in front of the Cascade Mountains.  Behind me, to the West, were scattered clouds with occasional sun breaks and the sun low in the sky.  Single swans, pairs, and family groups were constantly flying to and from the field.  Because the background was so dark I knew that the camera would tend to overexpose the swans in flight, and found that an exposure compensation of -1.5 EV produced a pleasing result.   My initial images were all of swans flying in front of trees, power lines, houses and railroad tracks.  Eventually, a few of the swans began flying above all of the ground clutter, with nothing but dark clouds in the background.  As this group of five ascended, the sun shone through a break in the clouds behind me, illuminating the swans in perfect light with nothing but dark, purple blue clouds behind them.  Because a super-telephoto lens has such a shallow depth of focus, the clouds in the background were uniformly blurred.  I used an exposure of 1/3200 second, f6.3, and ISO 500.

We are pleased that Hal  was willing to share this “keeper” shot in support of Trumpeter Swans and The Trumpeter Swan Society. Find more of his images at www.pbase.com/hge54/birds/waterfowl/swans.

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2 Responses to “The Trumpeter Swan Society February 2011 Photograph of the Month”

  1. Svend Frokjer Says:

    Fantastic picture “Trumpeter Swans in Flight by Hal Everett”
    Would it be possible for a retired Danish police officer – working with Photoshop – to get in touch with Hal Everett.

    Best regards Svend

    • trumpeterswansociety Says:

      I can send your request on to him, and he can get in touch with you by email if he will, I’ll encourage him to do so. Peg Abbott, Outreach Coordinator, TTSS

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