Surprise with silhouettes

The past several days have been a whirlwind as we headed up north to Seahouses, England to begin 6 days of photography on the Farne Islands.  I haven’t been able to process more than a couple images from over 10,000+ images that I’ve taken.  I had already started on a few from our previous location on Bempton Cliffs, England and wanted to share these.

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Image: Northern Gannet flying at Bempton Cliffs, England.  Nikon D500, Nikkor 200-500 mm at 200 mm, 1/2500 sec, ISO 400, hand-held

The third morning that we were in Bridlington, we woke to sunny skies once again and Artie told the group that there wouldn’t be anything to photograph.  We all wanted to get out to practice and left him behind at the hotel to go back to sleep.  :-). He soon regretted that decision.  Peter Kes, our driver and one of the photographers, was out with us and showed me what he was working on–silhouettes!  I was immediately entranced by this! The winds were strong, coming from the northwest, which worked well with the sun for silhouettes.  The gannets seemed to float in midair as they attempted to fly into the wind.  When we stood to photograph into the sun angle but aim at the water, the birds were silhouetted nicely!

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Image: Northern Gannet flying at Bempton Cliffs, England.  Nikon D500, Nikkor 200-500 mm at 200 mm, f/22, 1/2500 sec, ISO 400, hand-held

We played with the settings a bit, switching from f/22 and 1/2500 sec to f/8 and 1/8000 sec to see the changes.   With f/22, the background of the water is in sharper focus and stands out more where as f/8 softens the background. This worked well in the image below to allow me to capture the feather in the mouth with greater clarity.

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Image: Northern Gannet flying at Bempton Cliffs, England.  Nikon D500, Nikkor 200-500 mm at 200 mm, f/8, 1/8000 sec, ISO 100, hand-held

I then switched to a shorter lens on my same camera to capture the scene a bit more.  I was able to show how many birds were flying in this area on the cliffs.  It was a bit chaotic at times, but beautiful nonetheless.

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Image: Northern Gannets flying at Bempton Cliffs, England.  Nikon D500, Nikkor 24-70 mm at 70 mm, f/22, 1/1600 sec, ISO 400, hand-held

I even played with switching to my full frame camera, Nikon D750, with the same lens to try out some shots with this setup.  The color of the image changed slightly depending on the time I took the image, as fog started to approach.

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Image: Northern Gannets flying at Bempton Cliffs, England.  Nikon D750, Nikkor 24-70 mm at 70 mm, f/22, 1/2500 sec, ISO 400, hand-held

When the fog rolled in, we began shooting gannets in the mist.  Unfortunately, I haven’t looked at any of those images due to lack of time.  We all learned a very valuable lesson that weather changes very quickly and you never know what you might get. 🙂

Author: Dr. Amy Novotny

Amy Novotny is a physical therapist, marathon/ultra runner and nature photographer. She treats patients for a variety of conditions but specializes in chronic pain and calming an overactive nervous system using special diaphragmatic breathing. She has used this technique to help her qualify and run in four Boston marathons! She enjoys the outdoors and can often be found running and hiking on trails in throughout Arizona. She attempts to capture the beauty of nature with her photography both locally in Arizona and also throughout the United States. She is becoming more interested in wildlife photography and attempting to capture the emotion of animal interactions. In her spare time, Amy volunteers as a photo guide for the Arizona Highways PhotoScapes nonprofit and shares her joy of nature with others. Please feel free to contact her regarding her photography, physical therapy or running.

15 thoughts on “Surprise with silhouettes”

  1. I have taken accidental silhouettes of black birds, usually ravens, against a bright Arizona sky when I didn’t switch to spot metering or use a pretty high exposure compensation setting like +2 stops. Sometimes these are interesting.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, it is interesting at times. We were lucky that the winds were strong since it would have been almost impossible to capturing the fast birds if they had been going normal speed. I didn’t know you were from AZ, Dagny! Where about in AZ?


      1. oh cool! I love Watson Lake! I haven’t been to the other two places. Have you ever been down to Gilbert Riparian Preserve? It’s about 20 minutes from my home in AZ. :-).


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