Sunday, December 20, 2009

Stranger on Dogbar

We had wonderful sunrises and sunsets all week long. I resolved to get out of the house and shoot something interesting in the morning light like real landscape photographers do. But alas, when I got up at 5:00, I couldn’t see the stars. Crap, there would be no wonderful sunrise this morning. Back to bed.

Later at 6:00, I dreamed that I got up to see the sunrise, pulled the curtain aside and saw a beautiful Bavarian seen out my window. That is strange, I usually see the harbor. Realizing that I was still asleep, I convinced myself to wake up. I pulled the curtain aside for real and saw that it was indeed cloudy, but the cloud layer was thin and the light was diffused. This is excellent for going to Dogbar and shooting Purple Sandpipers again.

Dogbar Breakwater runs east-west across Gloucester Harbor with the rough sea side is to the south. Photographing winter peeps on the breakwater puts the sun behind them and makes shooting tough. But today, with the diffuse light, ah…it will be perfect. And it was.

©2009 ShootingMyUniverse

I think and shoot “A” or aperture priority mode. When I got there, the light levels on the dark birds and rocks gave me 1/30th of a second shutter speed, so I bumped up the ISO to 200. I was able to shoot at about 1/80th of a second. This would do, but there wasn’t much margin for shivering, getting blown around by the wind or hanging precariously from the rocks. Yes, I better sit down on the (very cold, wet and gull pooh covered) rocks and do what I can. But this is all technical stuff and tends to make the post clinical. Enough of that. All’s I’m saying is that I changed my plans and made do with what I had.

Last week I talked about Purple Sandpipers flying to Gloucester for the good life in the winter. Many of my more northern friends mentioned that they see them in the summer months in breeding regalia. I don’t expect to see too many shorebirds on Dogbar Breakwater in the winter. When I saw this little guy, I thought that he must be a juvenile.

©2009 ShootingMyUniverse

Then I saw this Ruddy Turnstone and realized that I was dealing with a mixed flock. Well, what the heck was that other guy?

©2009 ShootingMyUniverse

Finally, he turned around and I got a look at the face and bill. Wow, it's not a Curlew, but what a long bill!

©2009 ShootingMyUniverse

This Dunlin is at his most northerly winter range on the east coast. Hey little dude, you have wings. Although Purple Sandpipers make great companions, you can go further south, it's okay.

©2009 ShootingMyUniverse

Oops, that's the "I'm irritated" wing droop posture. Here is a tip about shooting Purple Sandpipers on Dogbar. Go when the tide is rather high. This will but the birds higher on the rocks and they will not be feeding. The problem is that when they are feeding they are very twitchy and active, making shooting much more difficult. They tend to feed at low tide because the seaweed is exposed and that's when the find all the goodies.

On another note, I saw my first adult Iceland Gull of the season fly by The Fort today. Yup, winter is here folks. As I write this on Saturday afternoon, we are expecting a storm. Bummer.

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eileeninmd said...

Awesome shots of the Purple Sandpipers, Ruddy Turnstone and the Dunlin. You are brave to be out there in the cold.

hip chick said...

I'm thinking that if I was a bird I would be heading down to the good life on the Keys and not the good life on Gloucester harbor.
And, perhaps that little guy is just like one of the tourists who likes it so much he decided to stay.

A New England Life said...

The clinical side of your post works just fine for me Steve.

It is tough to get up early, especially when it's cold outside, but you brought us some wonderful shots.

My poor backyard birds aren't liking this storm too much! How much snow do you have? We have little more than a dusting with blowing winds.

Jane said...

Beautiful shots Steve, you must have a lot of patience. Shame about your lack of sunrise but these are wonderful pictures, Thanks for sharing:)

Doug Taron said...

I just talked to my dad. Sounds like the storm really did hit you guys. If you go out today, maybe you'll see some pelgaics that have moved near shore because of the weather. Guillemots anyone?

Steve Borichevsky said...

Yes Doug, We're getting hammered by a classic Nor'easter. This one is moving rather slow. It may clear out early tonight. Right now the snow is too thick. Unfortunately, I have to work tomorrow, but I'll bet the birding will be good at Halibut Point.

Hi Jane, It does take a little patience, but mostly the willingness to be uncomfortable. I put on an couple of extra layers that I though I’d take off when I got there but still found that I was cold.

Hi Sharon, I think we are getting more than you are but it is hard to tell. In the front, it is blowing sidways, on the sides, it is clear. I never know how much we get because of the wind.

Hi Hip Chick, I think you salved the mystery.

Hi Eileen, Like I was saying to Jane, as long as you are willing to be uncomfortable, you can do this kind of shooting. Brrr.

Doug Taron said...

Yikes, I hope it doesn't move out too slowly. I'm supposed to fly in on Tuesday morning.

The Early Birder said...

No mention of 'vertigo' this time!
If these birds where close to home I think even I would be sorely tempted out, whatever the weather.
Good shooting my friend. FAB

Anonymous said...

You always achieve great light in your photos Steve.
A Master of the Aperture.

Steve Borichevsky said...

Thanks Roy! You made me chuckle.

LOL Frank, I think my attention was on my frozen face and I forgot to get woozy!

Doug, You will be in great shape.

Coy said...

You certainly made the diffused light work to your advantage, beautiful tack sharp photographs. I can imagine that the ocean breeze was really cold and penetrating.

Steve Borichevsky said...

Hi Coy, Yes, that wind coming across the harbor was numbing, but when I'm shooting such a great subject, I can put up with the chill. Thanks for stopping by.

Cindy said...

Hi Steve, Great shots of these little guys. How close were you to them? I wanted to get up and explore the winter wonderland outside but alas the call to sleep in was stronger. Lots of times the snow passes by brooklyn but not this time, we got a foot. I had a Red tailed hawk on the roof top next door as the snow started yesterday. Better keep an eye out when I'm walking my little Chihuahua!

Steve Borichevsky said...

Wow Cindy, I guessing I was ranging from 15 to 40 feet from the birds.

I estimate that we got about a foot based on how fast the snow was falling and how long the storm lasted. We did have a little pink in the sunset meaning that it must have been clear to the west.

SAPhotographs (Joan) said...

Lovely shots Steve. SOmetimes are dreams are so great we dont want to wake up.

Eve said...

Great birds and photos Steve. Great tips too! Thanks!

Mojo said...

Feel free to throw in all the "clinical technical details" you like. I'm always interested in what other folks are doing -- and how. Especially when the work is as good as yours. I can't ever seem to get close enough to birds to get shots like this -- even with a 200mm tele. If you've got any technical advice on that subject, I'd love to hear it.

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