Snow Geese, Sunset Light. San Joaquin Valley, California. December 17, 2015. © Copyright 2015 G Dan Mitchell – all rights reserved.
A group of snow geese fly into sunset light
I made this photograph on my second visit to the San Joaquin Valley migratory birds this season, on a day that features some very beautiful light near the end of the day. As always, I arrived before dawn, at first photographing in very thin fog. (Overall, this year so far seems have produced a lot less fog than usual and much less than last year.) I photographed all morning, finally took my midday break, then returned in the mid-afternoon.
This group of birds managed to pose quite nicely for me. There are many challenges when it comes to getting a group of birds together in one photograph. There are the usual issues — the birds need to fly past within camera distance, they must be oriented so that they are decently lit, there must be enough light to allow a fast enough shutter speed in order to minimize motion blur. While “decent” light can work, better light is, well, better. In this case the group of birds cooperated and flew toward the low angle light source of the sun, with just enough side light to enhance their features. Another challenge is taking advantage of opportunities when the birds line up in interesting and photogenic ways. Here they are all (well, almost all) headed the same direction. Wings are mostly in interesting and dynamic positions. There is barely any overlap among the birds, and the one small overlap has the head of the closer bird visible.
G Dan Mitchell is a California photographer and visual opportunist. His book, “California’s Fall Color: A Photographer’s Guide to Autumn in the Sierra” is available from Heyday Books and Amazon.
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