What feels like a long time ago now, my wife and I spent a weekend with some friends in a static caravan that belonged to one of them. It was in a park on the Yorkshire coast, and boy, what a coast it is.
Best of all, a clifftop path takes you deep into a sea bird colony full of gulls, puffins, and the majestic gannet. Now, I have to be honest, I’ve never really felt the desire to photograph a gannet, but there, on that cliff path with them all around me, I finally fell under their spell:
This gannet was near its nest, and using my Sigma lens (which zooms to 500 mm) I was able to get this intense portrait, with a high sun providing plenty of light to get a crisp, sharp shot. Now I know my lens quiet well, and anything faster than f7 will soften, so this was shot at around f9, fast enough to blur the sea, which in this image is probably 1000 m behind the bird, but well inside the lens’ sharp range – a good way to find this range on your lenses is to tape a piece of small-print newspaper to the wall and shoot it from the fastest aperture, increasing by whatever increment you can each time. On most lenses the fastest apertures are a little soft but go up a few stops and you’ll find some razor sharpness. I have lost so many wildlife images to softness before I new about this!
I love this image, all of the colours compliment so well, with the soft, lightly textured sea in the background, the sharp definition of each of the feathers on the bird’s back and breast, the soft yellow down of the neck, and then oh wow that eye!
This was actually a crop in from a larger 4×3 image, but I shoot a Canon 7D mk2, which has 20 megapixels, which lets me get away with a crop-zoom and still keep more than enough information in the image to keep it sharp, and the square just suits the shape of the bird so much better, the large negative blue space in the upper left balancing the smaller positive space filler with the birds body, and likewise the neck and the blue sea to the right of it.
Had I not been with my wife and friends, I would have spent hours here.
Maybe I should go back…