American Avocet

I must admit that the main reason I returned to Malheur National Wildlife Refuge when I did was that I was inspired by a photograph of a mother avocet with her chicks, something I’ve never had the honor of witnessing.

Of course, even without that inspiration I would have spent many hours taking pictures of the American Avocets because they are a favorite bird that I spent several years looking for before I found one, much less one in breeding colors. I returned three or four different times to take pictures of them, but, unfortunately, I never saw any signs of chicks even looking through binoculars.

I did get lots of shots that demanded much editing before settling on these four shots. I liked all of them and thought they all showed different aspects of the American Avocet, but another reason I chose them was to show the importance of lighting in shooting wildlife.

This pose was shot the first day I was there when it was relatively dark outside.

American Avocet

Though some of the details are easier to see than in later shots, I really wasn’t happy with the color of the water (or should I say lack of color?). Muddy brown water just isn’t particularly appealing.

This shot was taken with more light but it was still overcast and the sun was behind the avocet.

American Avocet

Again, the water seems to me to be a problem. It’s either too dark or too light, depending on your taste. The avocet itself is a little “soft” but I don’t necessarily object to that, and I could easily have sharpened it a little more in Photoshop.

It was a lot brighter the last two times I was shooting the avocets. In this shot the sunshine is coming from the right front side, and it reveals the colors of the American Avocet beautifully

American Avocet

without causing troublesome shadows or entirely destroying the highlights. The water might not be as blue as I’d like it to be, but it’s definitely blue.

The last shot was taken in the brightest light of all and the water is a beautiful blue, but unfortunately the sun was coming from behind the birds, producing dark shadows that tend to obscure the birds. I’d have to say that it was “too much of a good thing.”

American Avocets

Of course with modern photographic programs you can come awfully close to making any kind of photograph you want. I think I actually prefer this heavily photoshopped background to the original gray one.

American Avocet

So many variables. So many choices. Could it be that photographs tell us more about the photographer than about the subject?

3 thoughts on “American Avocet”

  1. I agree with Dave! Color & light are such personal things, though. I actually prefer the color of the water in the first shot up top—it looks more real, kind of brooding. For my tastes, an ideal day for shorewalking. In the bottom shot, the water is too bright and washed out looking to suit me. Different aesthetics, vive la difference!

  2. And one more thing: oh God, do I love those beaks! I am wanting a Darwinian timetable for this, maybe charting the lengthening of those beaks over the eons as the species got to be progressively more successful & efficient in their grubbing through the sand.

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