Gulls of 2013

January 10, 2014  •  Leave a Comment

I can scarcely believe I'm writing this, I hate Gulls! But funnily enough as I was looking back through my files from last year, it turns out that I actually point the camera at them more than I thought. I guess they're large and obvious, and when all else fails, it's something to do. Rarely do I go out on a specific Gull mission, it's usually a grab shot whilst doing something else.

I was inspired to do this post by Mick and Richard, who spend all weekend every weekend at Dungeness photographing Gulls. This is slightly one-dimensional, but results in some truly outstanding images (far better than those that follow), and Mick's review of his Gull year can be seen here, not sure Richard has done one.

So, in that vein, here are what I think are my best Gull images from last year. None spared, if I photographed the species, there is an image here to prove it, even if it it's a bit useless! Funnily enough I had under ten Lesser Black-backed Gull images to choose from, but well over thirty of Bonaparte's Gull. It's only when you look back that you realise you have completely overlooked the common stuff that you see day in day out.

You can hover over the images for the technical details, and click on them to display them at full resolution.

 

Audouin's Gull

Audouin's Gull1/500 at f5.6, ISO 800

Audouin's Gulls were few and far between on my family holiday in August. They departed the beach at the first signs of human life and didn't come back until dusk. Based on the east side of the island, it was impossible to get the right sun angle without taking my lens for a swim (I tried, didn't work!), but this is the best of what I got. Although there is a lot of shadow, the side lighting looks quite nice. I was very low for this one, and although the bird's legs look lost in the mist, this is actually the top of a ridge of sand I was shooting through.

Black-headed Gull

Black-headed Gull1/3200 at f9, ISO 800

Probably not the greatest photo of this species I've ever taken, but my main targets are always something else! This is a rare flight shot from me, and proves at least that I can kind of do it if I put my mind to it! Just not consistently! This was taken off Southend Pier, which I visited specifically to practice flight photography. That's dedication!

Bonaparte's Gull

Bonaparte's Gull1/1600 at f5, ISO 640

I actually made a specific trip to photograph this bird, four hours in car - what is the world coming to! The light was horrible, a nasty, insipid, flat and uninspiring day. The resulting images all looked very monochromatic, but you take what you can get. The bird was on a boating lake, and to get this image I lay flat on the pavement with the lens resting almost on the ground - you can't really tell where the water ends and the sky begins. I should have stopped down more to get a sharper beak, but probably even f13 would not have been enough, and at that point I would have been down to 1/250 or thereabouts.

Common Gull

Common Gull1/2500 at f8, ISO 800

Another image from that same day on Southend Pier. This image required a tiny tiny bit of missing wingtip to be added - don't ask me the P number, I'm not that kind of birder! I barely have any images of Gulls in flight, I like the pose and the lighting, so I thought what the hell, I'll do it. Rather than stitch it from another frame, there was so little of it needed that I simply drew it by hand/mouse, as well as adding canvas to the right. If you hadn't been told, would you have noticed?!

Glaucous Gull

Glaucous Gull 1/1000 at f5.6, ISO 1600

This is about the only image I took of a Glauc all year - a bit annoying as I have much nicer ones from last year but rules is rules. This was taken on Shetland near the fishing factory, where there are always a few white-wingers hanging around. Getting any kind of shot was very difficult as this was late in the day, and even up at ISO 1600 I was struggling - the converter meant my maximum aperture was f5.6. Of all the shots I took, I like this one the best. I know eye contact is considered essential, but this a little different. The white wings of a white-winger.

Great Black-backed Gull

Great Black-backed Gull1/3200 at f9, ISO 500

I was forced against my will to go to Dungeness one day, and 100% of the birds there are Gulls. What was I supposed to do? This was another opportunity to practice flight photography. I'm still at the stage where if it's sharp I'm basically happy, so this isn't a classic pose, banking and so on, but I'll get there. The weather was really nice, good light in the afternoon, and this allowed me to dial in f9, which is always helpful in flight shots. Note how all the Ps on view (numbers 21, 23, and 28 especially!) are ragged. 

Herring Gull

Herring Gull1/5000 at f4, ISO 640

Ah, the ubiquitous Herring Gull. Nothing special about this image, but I like the pose, and the light was fabulous, as was my positioning for the light. What do I wish I had done differently? Smaller than f4, as although this was handheld I didn't need 1/5000th of a second.

Iceland Gull

Iceland Gull1/1250 at f4, ISO 800

I travelled to Ireland in the summer for a spot of sea-watching. The wind had other ideas and it wasn't that great, but luckily I had my camera with me. This was taken at Galway's famous Nimmo's Pier, a place I'd never been and that was completely different to what I had in my head. This was the only interesting Gull around, so I took a few images. As with the Bonaparte's Gull, I like the almost Black and White feel to the image, as well as it's cleanliness. Although the whites look bright in the late evening sunshine, the histogram has not been breached. A low angle has helped here - I was lying down on the pavement again.

Ivory Gull

Ivory Gull1/2000 at f5.6, ISO 800

Never thought I'd see one of these, one of the only Gulls I've truly enjoyed this year! Photography at a major twitch is never easy, as you can't move around to change your position in case you flush the bird and are then lynched by 100 angry birders. I had to choose my spot in advance of the bird coming in, and this is what I got. Some way from ideal, but you can tell what it is. I actually guess the right spot and was closer to the bird than many people, and although the light was fine, even getting down as low as I could had no impact on the background which is naff.

Kittiwake

Kittiwake1/2500 at f6.3, ISO 400

This is a special image for me, not because it the best ever image of a Kittiwake (which clearly it isn't), but because of where I took it. Sometimes images are not all about the end result and how you got there, but the memories they recall. This bird was in Wanstead! I was walking along near Alexandra Lake when I glanced up at a Gull flying over my head. I did a double take when it appeared to have black legs. My brain screamed at me and I fumbled for the camera. At this point I was right into the light but even the dreadful frame showed what I wanted it to see. Solid wingtips and a yellow bill! Kittiwake! Nick and I think Josh who were still within earshot must have heard my screams - I was literally jumping up and down, pointing and yelling. I couldn't believe it, Kittiwake is rare enough on the river in London, let alone on my patch miles from the Thames, but yet here it was, a patch tick. The bird stuck around long enough to get some images with the sun behind me, and I was over the moon for the next few days.

Lesser Black-backed Gull

Lesser Black-backed Gull1/2500 at f6.3, ISO 640

I could only find a handful of images of LBB that I had taken in 2013, and not many more than that ever. It seems to be a species that I have completely overlooked. I have nothing to say about this image, the only thing that stands out is that I used a 300mm lens and a converter rather than anything longer as my 500mm was broken (or so I thought at the time!).

Mediterranean Gull

Med Gull

Lovely Gulls these, as Gulls go. I was quite pleased with the lighting and the pose on this image, given my usual success rate. The plain background helps, and I have to say I really enjoyed my time on Southend Pier.

Ring-billed Gull

Ring-billed Gull1/2000 at f8, ISO 800

This bird was already frustratingly full of bread when I got to it, and never really showed much interest. That said, it was the first time I'd seen a juvenile of this species so I took what I could. Birds flying straight at you never really work, but the saving grace of this image is the head-turn and eye contact - ideally there would have been even more head turn, masking the other eye, but it wasn't to be. The bird did one pass and then flew back over estuary and landed in the same field it had been sat in when we turned up. 

 

 

 

 


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