Birds at the Beach

A laughing gull scouts the shore in search of food.

A laughing gull scouts the shore in search of food.

Sometimes I hesitate to even take my camera to the beach with me. I mean really, what seaside image has not been captured in a gazillion photos already? Sunsets, sunrises, selfies, sand castles, messages written in the sand, and my all time favorite - those POV shots of beach-goer's feet (which I may or may not have shared as well)! So perhaps you can understand my hesitation. But then again, "why not?" I ask myself. Sea gull shots are also a dime a dozen but at least they're living, breathing, fishing and flying creatures so what the heck, lets spend some megapixel currency on em', why don't we!

It helps to have a long lens (in this case the fantastic Nikon 70-200 2.8 VR) I'd love to have something with more reach and perhaps one will someday make it past the 'add to B&H cart, let me dream of this' phase but for now I'll just have to make do. It also comes in real handy to have a super fast frames-per-second camera but if you don't, then just prepare to shoot a lot of images so you can narrow down 'the one'.

This shot contains a bit of gesture with the ring-billed gull's legs crossed and one foot in the air. It also helps that the bird was carrying a souvenir in it's beak. I shot about 30 similar frames which gave me plenty of options to choose from in finding the best, most 'photographic' image. 

This shot contains a bit of gesture with the ring-billed gull's legs crossed and one foot in the air. It also helps that the bird was carrying a souvenir in it's beak. I shot about 30 similar frames which gave me plenty of options to choose from in finding the best, most 'photographic' image. 

Bird photos can be a lot like flower photos. There's nothing inherently wrong with taking them but they are already in plentiful supply so if you're going to share your floral or avian inspirations with your friends, then I think they at least ought to be somewhat interesting, meaning: there should be something that makes such shots stand out above the Instagram, beach vacation crowd. If the bird isn't particularly interesting, then look for a particular gesture or a backdrop to shoot it against. I made use of shallow depth of field and close cropping.

I like to think of my photos as paintings where I get to make it up as I go. In a painting, you would compose your image carefully, not including frivolous junk or uninteresting elements and instead you'd focus solely on the subject. So be sure to crop out anything that distracts from what you want to show. Also, I don't like to include a lot of excess image area around the subject and though the lens I was shooting with has decent reach at 200mm, I still had to crop down each of these shots to put the birds at the right proportions to the frame. 

 

I love the bokeh I get with a 2.8 lens stopped all the way down. I shot this one quite low and wanted everything but the bird to be out of focus. Putting the bird a touch to the right of the frame also helps achieve that 'painting' look. In real life, things are rarely perfectly centered. 

I love the bokeh I get with a 2.8 lens stopped all the way down. I shot this one quite low and wanted everything but the bird to be out of focus. Putting the bird a touch to the right of the frame also helps achieve that 'painting' look. In real life, things are rarely perfectly centered. 

Catching birds in flight is a whole different matter. I found that I had to capture a ton of frames before grabbing a handful that had a picturesque quality to them. I'm sure if I spent hours waiting for the perfect shot I could've walked away with something even more interesting but then again, these are seagulls we're talking about - there's nothing overtly exotic about them. Still, as commonplace as these creatures are, one has to appreciate their beauty. I wish I could fly. - David

Flight seems so effortless for a bird, much like walking is to humans. 

Flight seems so effortless for a bird, much like walking is to humans. 

I love the perfect circle around the laughing gull's face. 

I love the perfect circle around the laughing gull's face. 

Pelicans in flight.

Pelicans in flight.