Rich Ditch's Photography Blog

November 4, 2009

Western Grebe

Filed under: behavior, Birds, composition, favorite places, light, style, Veterans Oasis Park — richditch @ 10:22 pm


Western Grebe

Western Grebe

Western Grebe, and its close relative the Clark’s Grebe, can be found in small numbers in central Arizona in most winters. But unlike their smaller cousin The Pied-billed Grebe I’ve found them difficult to photograph. They prefer the deeper water and they like to keep away from the edges where the people are, so until recently my shots of them have been dismally distant and not suitable for sharing (or much else for that matter).

So when fellow local photographer Scott Frye discovered one at Veterans Oasis Park in Chandler about 25 miles from where I live that allowed him to get some good shots I went to see the bird and try my luck. I got to see the bird later in the day, but the weather had turned and the grebe wouldn’t come in close for me. Although I got marginally better shots than I had previously I was still disappointed in my results.

Things got worse when another friend got better shots and closer views when he got to see this bird, so I tried a second time. The weather was better and the light was nicer, but the grebe still kept its distance from the shoreline and my shots were again less than I’d hoped they would be.

So, I went back for a third day of shooting and finally had the good fortune of good light, still water, and a close subject. A took a lot of frames, concentrating on those brief times when the grebe had its neck extended and its position to the light caught a sparkle in the eye. I got a few of the grebe “foot stretch” as well when the bird sticks one webbed foot out behind the body like a wing or rudder.

But the shot I liked best was this rest position, where the grebe folds back its neck on top of the chest and tucks the bill under the folded neck. Mostly the pose is a bid boring as you see less of the bird, but for just a moment it was perfectly positioned to my camera and the light to show the red eye with a catchlight. The smooth water allowed for a nice reflection. My low shooting position eliminated all other compositional distractions and helped create the restful mood of the image.

I was careful to center the grebe with reflection for the composition – I find powerful subjects with direct eye contact often demand ¬†central placement in the frame. Forcing such a subject into the “rule of thirds” composition makes it feel arbitrary and unbalanced, at least to my eye.

Nikon D200, Nikkor 300/2.8 plus TC20E (2x), ISO 320, 1/250th second at f/10, OCtober 30, 2009



1 Comment »

  1. Gorgeous shot of this grebe; what a cool pose, and I love the eye!

    Comment by Kim Hosey (AZ Writer) — November 5, 2009 @ 7:32 am

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