Monday, March 9, 2015

They're not all at Walmart

It has been a rough winter for all birds — including the ubiquitous seagull. Some gulls migrate to warmer climes while others simply migrate to the nearest Walmart parking lot. For some, this area may have been the warmer clime — which was a big mistake this year. This photo only takes in about a third of the flock that was just standing around on a local frozen pond.

At the top of the far shore in the first photo is a rail line for CSX trains. On the other side of the railroad tracks is another smaller pond. The ponds are within a few hundred yards of a busy road intersection, so when a train comes through, they sound a long warning. I was at the pond one day recently when a train approached and blew it's horn. There weren't any seagulls in the pond I was standing at but, to my surprise, a couple thousand bolted into the air from the pond on the other side of the tracks. This was just a small portion of them.

More gulls standing around on ice waiting for the thaw.

Mass take-offs of flocks are chaotic, but I'll go ahead and film them occasionally on the chance that, with a little cropping, some sense can be made out of image. The lighting was bright and not terribly harsh, so I had predetermined to film the gulls on the pond if they took off.

Ice and snow will fool the metering system of a camera and a "normal" setting will be rendered underexposed, causing snow to appear to be gray or blue rather than white. To counter this, I set the camera to over expose one full stop so whites appear white. Care is needed, though, because it is easy to blow out the whites so that those areas become featureless. Gulls can be pretty mundane subjects, but with good lighting, these Ring-billed Gulls with their varied expressions result in an interesting image.

Sometimes you can use color to create even more interest in a photograph. I decreased the color temperature in the original file (you cannot do this with a typical jpg file) so that the ice appears bluer than it actually was. This causes the frozen wavelets to become more noticeable so that a rather ordinary photo of a gull landing becomes interesting throughout the entire image.

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