Posts Tagged ‘Washington State’

The Trumpeter Swan Society October 2011 Photograph of the Month

October 10, 2011

Trumpeter Swans at Sunset by Stu Davidson

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:

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 facts:

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.

The Trumpeter Swan Society February 2011 Photograph of the Month

February 10, 2011

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