Rich Ditch's Photography Blog

July 5, 2012

Neotropic Cormorant – Three Views

Filed under: behavior, Birds, comparisons, composition, favorite places, Gilbert Water Ranch, light — richditch @ 3:44 pm
Neotropic Cormorant

Neotropic Cormorant

Nikon D300, Nikkor AF-S 300/2.8 plus TC20E III (2x), tripod, ISO 800, 1/640th second at f/8, -2/3 stop exposure compensation, 69% of frame, 4/4/12 @ 7:02 am

In working through my backlog of unprocessed images from the cooler days before Phoenix got too hot for photography, I picked these three shots of Neotropic Cormorants from late March and early April. All were taken at the Gilbert Water Ranch on pond #5 in the morning when the light is best at that pond.

Cormorants can be tricky subjects. There’s not much color to them: just the yellow-orange of the bill and the aquamarine or the eye, set off from the near-black body by whitish feathers around the base of the beak. Finding an exposure that shows detail in both the blacks and the whites requires care as well as soft light.

Neotropic Cormorant

Neotropic Cormorant

Nikon D300, Nikkor AF-S 300/2.8 plus TC20E III (2x), tripod, ISO 800, 1/8000th second at f/8, -2/3 stop exposure compensation, 68% of frame, 4/4/12 @ 7:02 am

Comparing the second image taken a fraction of a second later than the first shows how critical the angle of light can be – note that in the second image the light falls directly on the dark plumage of the back and shows it to actually be dark brown (and not black as it appears in the first image). In both images note that the light falling on the neck comes from enough of an angle to bring out texture (defined by the shadows cast by the feathers sticking out), while neck feathers on the shaded side don’t show the texture because there’s no directional light to bring it out.

Neotropic Cormorant Wing Spread

Neotropic Cormorant Wing Spread

Nikon D300, Nikkor AF-S 300/2.8 plus TC20E III (2x), tripod, ISO 400, 1/500th second at f/10,  77% of frame, 3/23/12 @ 8:00 am

This third image was taken 11 days before the top two and about an hour later in the morning when the light was much less flattering. Cormorants typically dry their wings in this manner but I don’t see them doing this earlier in the morning when I like to shoot.

Of these three images I prefer the first for the light and the position of the cormorant.

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