Jan 5, 2011

At the Florida Corkscrew Wildlife Sanctuary

On my last photography tour in Florida I once again stopped at the Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary and got loose with my camera along the 2 mile boardwalk trail loop. The Corkscrew is such a unique place and a paradise for all sorts of wildlife; hence making it equally exciting for birders and photographers alike. If it is your lucky day you may encounter the rare Florida panther or a Florida black bear crossing your path. I once discovered American alligators resting at the dried out Lettuce Lakes along the boardwalk. Birds such as egrets, herons, warblers, woodpeckers and owls are a common sight throughout the wildlife sanctuary. The flora at the Corkscrew is remarkable as well. Many orchids are in bloom throughout the year making for a beautiful flower photography destination. Open prairie and the cypress swamp provide objects for landscape photography. Along the boardwalk I came across bird photography jewels such as ibises, black-crowned night heron, pileated woodpecker, red-shouldered hawk, and an American bittern. Towards the end of the loop trail I was rewarded for my patience with a great egret that was very adoptive to human surroundings. The egret crossed under the boardwalk, stalking for prey and going about its business. The bird was neither disturbed by me nor my camera presence and couldn’t care less about my photographic ambition. I on the other hand was pretty excited to have the bird in camera range beautifully lit by the morning light. At one point the great egret walked towards me on a log and I was able to capture a few shots before he came to close even for his comfort. The bird then turned around and walked off. I thought that this was the end of my bird photography endeavor but was proven wrong. Approximately 1-2 yards in front of me the bird noticed more prey to his left and turned that way. I immediately realized the opportunity for wonderful great egret portrait photography. Still down on the boardwalk to be near at bird’s eye level I quickly zoomed the camera lens to 200 mm, adjusted the polarizer to minimize glare and focused on the eye. I kept part of its body in the frame and instinctively applied the rule of thirds for my composition, leaving sufficient space to make the viewer wonder what the bird is looking at. The bright sun lit the white feathers of the bird and an aperture setting of f/3.5 combined with a ISO100 setting provided a fast exposure time of 1/160 seconds that saturated and provided the desired contrast between the bird and reflection in the background. I used the boardwalk to stabilize my camera and to optimize image sharpness and quality. In the digital post processing steps I removed dust spots and made minor adjustments to lighting and color saturation before sharpening the great egret photography portrait.