Well it’s been 3 weeks and the “Beast” (our affectionate term for our 5th wheel) is still in the shop, currently we are waiting for a new compressor for the refrigerator to come in so we can finally get back on the road. We have spent a moment or two sulking and complaining about our current situation but more often than not we are just making the best of it, being grateful for family that has hosted us these past three weeks without a single complaint or “hey when the heck are you leaving?” and finding photo opportunities where ever we can.
We made a few visits to the St. Augustine Alligator Farm, we purchased the yearly photographer’s pass for $89.95 which allows us access to the rookery at 8 am and the ability to stay until sunset, in addition to supporting the good work of the Alligator Farm. We came at a great time as it’s baby season at the rookery, so cute and so much fun to photograph and observe.
The rookery poses quite a few challenges for photographers, to start with it is relatively small and even during the photography pass holders only hours it can get quite crowded.
There’s so much activity going on that you need to learn as a photographer to focus on a subject and not get distracted by all the activity, and at the same time be aware of your surroundings and be prepared to make a quick change so as not to miss a wonderful opportunity for an image, no easy task to master.
Another challenge you will encounter is very distracting backgrounds and foregrounds. The rookery area as mentioned is fairly small and does not provide easy opportunities for soft compressed backgrounds that as nature photographers we like very much. It requires constant vigilance in checking your camera angle, your backgrounds, scanning the image area for distracting elements and making adjustments.
In the image above of the Snowy Egret the background was darkened in post production using NIK/Google filters. I used Viveza and selected several control points and decreased the brightness of the background, in doing this I lost some of the fine feathers on top so when I brought the image back into PS I added a layer mask to the Viveza layer, chose a soft brush, changed the opacity to about 30% and painted the fine detail of those feathers back in.
The blue sky created a pleasing background for Roseate spoonbill below, just as he landed on the perch.
For the family of Great Egrets a tight crop was chosen to minimize some of the distractions and an aperture of f8 to keep all 4 eyes in focus and at the same time adding as little depth of field to the background as possible.
One of the things we love about nature photography is all it’s challenges, it’s never the same and there are so many aspects of it that as photographers we have no control over. We don’t control our subject, the light, the backgrounds or foregrounds. We can only control how we as artists can create the images we want under the circumstances nature gives us and boy is it fun.
In addition to visits to the Alligator Farm we’ve had some backyard fun in Live Oak with a few beautiful Red-headed woodpeckers.
Wildlife photography is kind of like life; make the absolute best of what you’ve been given. Spend more time enjoying and conquering the challenges and less time complaining about them and things have a way of ending up new and beautiful.