We met some people on the pier this morning and while talking, I noticed a few seabirds had come close enough to be identified. Great northern divers (or common loons) in winter plumage. It had rained so hard over the night that I decided not to bring a camera. I had guessed the light would be dull, that the storm would have caused the sea to raise sand from the sea floor and muddy the waters. And besides, it might have rained again.
I regretted my choice and we went home but decided I had to return. I’d need a big lens to capture the birds. So I connected the Sigma 160-600 mm lens to my Fuji X-T3 camera with the Fringer adapter.
And I’d have no use for a tripod either. There wouldn’t be time to set up for the birds that tend to spend more time under the water than on the surface. And there was a residual swell so there might be waves breaking over the pier because it would be at highest tide. Best to keep the gear mobile and make it easier to keep it dry.
There were quite a few great northern divers in the harbour when I got back. I presumed they were sheltering from the storm, after the night’s onshore winds and perhaps it’s easier to forage when the substrate has been disturbed by a storm. I don’t know how the birds could see their prey but I can tell you they were surfacing regularly with crabs in their bills.
Perhaps there were ten divers that I could easily make out, probably more unseen among the cormorants in the distance. And then some divers came across towards me, close enough to take good pictures. Close enough that is if you had a 900 mm lens.
I took this photo at right angles to the bird’s path after I manually set the focus. I set shutter at 1/2000 s using the rule of thumb that it should be at least twice focal length. I had already turned off the image stabiliser because it confuses the electronics in the Fringer adapter. I selected f8 to increase the depth of field but still get enough of the dreary winter light onto the sensor And I left the sensor sensitivity range automatically between ISO 100 and 3200 as the light varied. It selected ISO 3200 for most shots.
I had braced myself on a pier bollard. I tried about fifty times and got two good photographs when it got bright for a moment. I was mostly fighting poor light despite holding half a metre of tubed, precision glazing.
And I am content with this shot. You might not know that these birds are probably over wintering after breeding in Iceland where they are to be seen in their magnificent summer plumage that includes bright red eyes set in a black head. They are the loon on the Canadian dollar known as the ‘loonie’.
As you can see below, there was a threat from breaking waves but I avoided them.
You can read more and enjoy a selection of loon images here.