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Posts Tagged ‘takeoff’

The Great Egret (Ardea alba) was beautiful in the bright sunlight. Its wingspan was impressive and its flight was graceful as it took to the air.

Yes, the takeoff indeed was great.

Great Egret

Great Egret

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Do you photograph some subjects over and over again, hoping to get better (or at least different) images? I never grow tired of observing herons and egrets at my local marshland park. Most of the time, they (and I) are standing still, waiting for a brief moment of action, generally when they are fishing or when they take off into the air. These birds look gangly and awkward when on the ground or in the water, but when they are flying, it’s like watching an aerial ballet.

I took this shot last Friday as a Great Egret (Ardea alba) was just taking off from the muddy waters of one of the small ponds at the park. I was thrilled to be able to capture both a shadow and reflection of the graceful bird. Although I often have trouble getting a good exposure and frequently blow out the highlights, in this case I as able to capture some of the details of the wing feathers.

The egrets will be migrating out of this area soon, but I will continue to have the herons to keep me occupied in the upcoming months (and I’ll be trying to get more shots like this one).

Great Egret

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Some subjects are so awe-inspiring that I get excited just seeing them, even if they are too far away for a good photo—like this Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) that I saw Monday at my local marsh. The eagle seemed to sense my presence and took off before I could get closer, but I managed to capture an image of its final preparations for takeoff from the branch.

eagle_takeoff1_blogWhen I am walking through the woods at this time of the year, I have to keep my eyes in constant motion. Leaves are still sparse enough on the trees that I am still able to spot some birds in the trees.  However, insects are starting to appear too, so I have to scan the leaves and branches on the ground for these little creatures.

On early Monday morning, as I looked through a break in the trees, I caught sight of a large bird in the distance, sitting on the end of a branch. I immediately stopped, having learned from experience that even a single step forward would be likely to spook the bird. The light was not great, but the shape suggested to me that it was probably a bald eagle.

The eagle looked around for a few seconds and then took off. At that moment, I was absolutely certain that it was a bald eagle. I was not so certain that I had captured any useable images, but I was content just to have experienced the sight of that majestic bird in flight.

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© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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Have you ever watched ducks taking off from the water? Some of them seem to rise up almost straight out of the water, while others, like this Ring-necked Duck (Aythya collaris), like to get a running start, bouncing across the surface of the water.

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© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Have you ever seen a Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias) attempt to do a vertical takeoff from the water? Most of the time, blue herons gain altitude with a few thrusts of their powerful wings as they move forward into the air.

This heron, however, looked like he was initially trying to levitate straight up into the air, like a Harrier jet, a jet that is capable of taking off vertically. It looked like the heron could not perform a normal takeoff because his feet were tangled in the weeds at the bottom of the little pond.  Before he could take off, he had to untangle his feet and his initial upward wing movements were intended to accomplish that task. Only then was he cleared for takeoff.

You’ll probably noted that I posted the images in reverse chronological order, so if you want to follow the takeoff process, you should start at the bottom. The first two images are more impressive as photographs, because I was able to capture the heron in the air, with the wings in interesting positions, despite the fact that I was using “only” a 180mm lens. (Some of the bird photographers that I encounter have 500mm or longer lenses.) The last two images are interesting and a little whimsical, because of the heron’s actions and the angle at which we are viewing the heron. Did you notice how skinny his face and neck look when shot from a head-on position?

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Click on the image for a higher-resolution view.

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Before you can take off, you have to untangle your feet.

Before you can take off, you have to untangle your feet.

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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At a moment when the lighting was particularly beautiful yesterday morning, I sensed that the pair of geese was getting ready to take off from the pond. I readied myself and somehow my timing, composition, and focus clicked together with my shutter.

I ended up with some images that required almost no adjustments or cropping. I was particularly happy, because I have been experiencing difficulties capturing motion with my newest lens, a Sigma 135-400mm telephoto zoom.

Luck played a big role too, since I had no control over the way that the geese would move their wings (though I guessed correctly the direction in which they would take off).

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Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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I stumbled upon a pair of Hooded Merganser ducks (Lophodytes cucullatus) at Lake Cook, a tiny urban lake, shortly after I photographed a Belted Kingfisher this past weekend. As soon I spotted them, they also became aware of my presence and immediately took evasive action. In most cases in the past, that has meant that they started swimming away. This time they seemed to have decided that more decisive action was needed and they immediately took off.

Fortunately my camera was already in my hands and the settings were about the right ones for the situation. When I started photographing birds, one of the more experienced birders whom I met recommended keeping the camera set for burst mode and that’s where I keep it most of the time now. Occasionally that means I shoot off a few extra exposures unintentionally when my trigger finger is a little heavy, but sometimes it lets me get an exposure I might not have gotten otherwise. Now, let me be clear that my almost ancient Canon Rebel XT is not a professional DSLR, so burst mode means about three frames a second, which worked out this time.

I fired off a half-dozen frames as the two ducks, a male and a female, took off from the water and I am pretty pleased with the results. It looks like the ducks get a running start on the water before they take to the air. The photo of the male duck that I featured at the start is the second one in the chronological sequence, but I thought it was the most interesting in showing the little water “explosions” as the ducks skipped across the surface. The rest are pretty much self-explanatory. I especially like the way that the heads flatten out into more aerodynamic shapes as the ducks start flying and the reflections are pretty nice. A couple of the shots are cropped to show only the male duck, because his position happened to bemore interesting than that of the female in the image (no discrimination intended).

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© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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