Action Shots for a Change

Although I think birds are best shown while in flight, most of my shots tend to show them floating in water or sitting on a branch because that’s how you usually see them and, equally important, because the light here in the Pacific Northwest often doesn’t allow good action shots. If you push the ISO up high enough to freeze the bird in flight, the grain is awful, not to mention the problem of getting the correct exposure of the bird when you’re shooting against the sky. Nevertheless, when it gets as sunny as it has been around here the last two weeks I crank up the shutter speed and try to get as many action shots as I can.

A highlight of a recent trip to Theler Wetlands was watching a pair of Red-Tailed Hawks that appeared to be courting, spiraling up, then diving past each other.

Red-Tailed Hawk Courtship

Unfortunately, they did this with the sun directly behind them, making it impossible to capture their spectacular dives in any detail.

Luckily, this pair of Canada Geese were more accommodating,

Canada Geese

flying directly in front of us with the sun coming over my shoulder, as did this flock of male and female Common Mergansers

Common Mergansers

that came roaring up the river.

The next day I was at the Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge by the pond taking pictures of a female Hooded Merganser in shaded pond when she bolted.

female Hooded Merganser

Because I was panning with her, parts of the picture are clear while other parts are blurred. It’s amazing to me that the drops of water are quite sharp while the wing tips are blurred. Of course, most of the picture is actually clearer than I saw it with my own eyes. Personally, I think the blurriness is an asset, emphasizing the bird’s speed.

Later in the day, I caught this shot of an Osprey hovering above McAllister Creek.


It’s not quite as thrilling as a shot of an osprey catching a fish, but I love seeing birds hover like this.