I just spent a weekend in western Ireland. Ostensibly the purpose was sea-watching, but with that a little on the slow side, I sought out a few photographic opportunities. Fulmar has long been on my list of image "wants" but somehow I've never managed any. Whether this is never finding the right opportunity, or never putting in the requisite time I don't know, but a session on Loop Head in County Clare has put that right. I probably spent upwards of two hours with these birds before the weather set in and I was forced to retreat to the pub! Interestingly the birds required gusty conditions to actually come close in to the top of the cliff. In calmer conditions the following day, and when the light was a whole lot better, the opportunities were much less frequent. If you've been reading this or my other blog (www.wansteadbirder.com) for any length of time you will know that flight shots are not my forte, so it was quite pleasing to be able to devote some much needed time to this aspect of photography. I'm very pleased with some of the results, and it does show that if you practice something enough, eventually this will bear fruit. I'm not pretending these are the greatest Fulmar shots ever, but versus my usual standard I'm very happy indeed! Let's start off with a shot that helped me test my exposure - I work in manual most of the time now, and a test shot is generally always a good idea if you plan to be set up for a while. Again, with practice, you get to judge the light fairly accurately. I think my first guess was about 2/3rds out.
So once I was dialled in, I sat down on the cliff edge - a dangerous business this photography lark - and got to work. Exposure in the event required constant tweaking, but generally I used ISO 800, with shutter speeds of 1/2500s-1/3200s, and apertures of f6.3-f9. Centre point AF was by far the most effective, the "ring of fire" never locked on, always got the sea below, really irritating, and the variable distances involved meant I could not use the focus limiter on the lens. All photos with the 1D Mark IV, and the 500mm Mark II lens. I tried the following day with the 5D Mark III, and the focus simply wasn't as effective for me - I soon gave up and reverted to the 1D.