Not a Snowy Owl III: More Beautiful and Exciting than Bubo scandiacus?

The Streak Continues….

I am posting this from the Islip Airport. I awoke at 3:30am for my flights to San Diego for the now sold-out Short-Notice San Diego IPT. Man, those were four boring NFL games yesterday in stark comparison to last weekend’s four Wildcard thrillers.

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This image was created at the west jetty at Shinnecock Inlet, Hampton Bays, Long Island, NY with the Gitzo 3532 LS carbon fiber tripod, Mongoose M3.6 head, the Canon EF 600mm f/4L IS II USM lens and the Canon EOS-1D X. ISO 800. Evaluative metering +1 stop: 1/320 sec. at f/9 in Av mode.

Central sensor Surround/AI Servo Rear Focus AF as framed active at the moment of expsoure. Click here if you missed the latest version of the Rear Focus Tutorial.

Be sure to click on the image to see a larger version.

Not a Snowy Owl III: More Beautiful and Exciting than Bubo scandiacus?

I was nestled down in the jetty rocks at Shinnecock Inlet with the 600 II/2X III/1D X combo photographing all three scoter species, a few Common Eiders, and a Common Loon or two. I will share some of those images with you soon. The last thing that I did as I left the car was to grab a few slices of bread from the open loaf in the trunk. I figured that having a few gulls around would make the sea ducks feel more at home so every ten minutes or so I would toss out a few small pieces of King Kullen’s finest. Four or 5 young Herring Gulls appeared magically whenever I did so.

The sea duck photography was going well. Just as I tossed yet another scrap of bread a ghostly white gull appeared just 20 feet away; with its white primaries and small, rounded head I knew instantly that it was–along with Snowy Owl and Glaucous Gull–one of the target species for my trip. My pulse raced. I had seen only a handful of Iceland Gulls in my 30+ years of bird photography and my nearly 38 years of birding. But more than the rarity of the species it was the beauty of this bird that grabbed me. I am a sucker for young birds with their scalloped feather edgings. I quickly removed the 2X and went to work.

Notice that with the bird in the shade that I instinctively went Av mode +1 stop, a tried and true formula for a medium-sized in the frame white bird in shaded blue water. I made about 50 images of the bird before it flew off. This, my favorite, was–as so often happens–the first image that I created. Juvenile Herring Gulls are much darker overall ranging from very dark brown, sometimes almost looking nearly black, to dark brownish-grey to grey, depending on age and feather wear. The young Kumlien’s Iceland Gull was white by comparison. Kumlien’s is the race of Iceland Gull that breeds in North America.

For me, seeing and photographing this bird was more exciting than photographing a Snowy Owl.


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Breathe deeply, bite the bullet, and live life to its fullest; we all get only one ride on the merry-go-round… Join me on this great trip.

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The Southern Ocean…

There has already been a ton of interest including that from some long time wonderful Happy Camper BIRDS AS ART folks. Mulitple-IPT veteran Michael Viljoen of South Afirca has already committed to making the trip with his son. He and lovely, smiling wife Lyndsey were with me on the memorable and wonderful October 2012 Cheesemans’ South Georgia Expedition. Repeat-clients–I like to call them recidivists–are a good sign that you are doing something right.

Click here for complete details. If you are seriously interested please shoot me an e-mail for the trip link.


Last Year’s Grand Prize winning image by Lou Coetzer

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Important Contest News


Contest Deadlines Extended!
BIRDS AS ART 2nd International Bird Photography Competition
New Entry Deadline: January 31, 2014; see additional details below

With so many folks signing up at the last minute and with so many folks having trouble uploading their images due to server overload the deadline for entering the contest (registering and paying) has been extended until January 31, 2014 and the deadline for uploading images has been extended until midnight Eastern time on February 10, 2014. Take advantage of this extension to have a crack at the great prizes.

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8 comments to Not a Snowy Owl III: More Beautiful and Exciting than Bubo scandiacus?

  • avatar Rob Melone

    P.S. I think you went with f/9 (opposed to f/8) because the bird was fairly close.

  • avatar Rob Melone

    One of the things I do on your blog artie is to look at the image and try and guess your settings. I saw a bird and background that overall looked brighter than a mid-tone so I thought negative compensation.

    Rob, that is basically poor thinking. Bright backgrounds rarely require negative EC.

    When I saw plus 1 stop I was totally baffled. But then I was relieved to see that the bird was shot in the shade. It is a wonderfully exciting bird and such a great exposure artie.

    Thanks. Remember that a bird in the shade will always need + EC. It may need a lot depending on the situation. I have never taught negative EC for birds in the shade…

    best, and thanks for stopping by, artie

  • avatar Bill Eaton

    Always a thrill to see and shoot something special.

  • avatar Ted Willcox

    Beautiful bird, lovely feather patterns, the bird has a delicate and peaceful look.

  • avatar Bill Richardson

    It would be interesting to know why you chose f9??

    • avatar Jim Kranick

      Perhaps Artie wanted to stop down “a bit” for increased sharpness and DOF :)

      Islip to San Diego? You know that wasn’t a non-stop flight.