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Kingfisher !!!

Discussion in 'Birds' started by PJohnP, Aug 23, 2005.

  1. PJohnP


    Feb 5, 2005
    As I mentioned a bit back, I was working in central Wisconsin for a couple of weeks, trying to photograph whenever the workload wasn't excessive (or it was raining). One of my passions in bird photography has been trying to land good photographs of kingfishers.

    Kingfishers are elusive and difficult to photograph birds. They don't have the size of the ospreys or other fish-hunting predator birds; their flight speed and darting movements make flight shots difficult; and they tend to bolt away whenever people come within decent shooting range. Typically, a kingfisher will flit away when a person gets within a "bubble" of 75 -100 feet, making close shots without massive cropping highly improbable.

    One late day, mostly overcast and threatening rain but with flickers of rose from a declined sun, I came to a place where power lines crossed near to cranberry bogs. Several banded kingfishers were quarrelling, sometimes quite violently, their attentions more given to each other more than watching for those pesky humans. I siddled over to a vantage spot and waited for a longish time. Gradually, the kingfishers grew somewhat accustomed to my standing still in the area, and were less skittish. Rapid camera (and lens) movements would, however, send them away. I had to restrain myself from pivoting quickly to try and land shots.

    Much to my surprise, a female dove perhaps twenty feet in front of me, too rapidly for me to catch it entering and leaving the water. It then perched on a power line above me, looking a bit "spiky" with the water still clinging to its feathers.



    Nikon D100, 200-400mm AFS/VR, TC17E, ISO640, processed in NC, cropped

    These are "high key" photos, much better described as such rather than, "shot contre-jour with increased ISO, as much EV comp as I could think of at that moment, and hoping I could get some detail on the dark head and pitch-coloured eyes, instead of a soot black sock on the top of the stocky body". I probably should have run these through noise reduction, but I decided to let the conditions speak for themselves. I was astonished in processing to see a "catchlight" (of sorts) on the kingfisher's eyes in a couple of my shots, so things are not so bad as all that.

    Even if these were not quite full frame, border-to-border kingfisher shots in crisp sunlight, I was elated at my placement. And I had yet to get the most fun I would have out of this session... (to be continued)

    Always shoot.

    John P.
  2. HarryB


    Jan 28, 2005
    Viera, Florida
    Excellent shots John. Those suckers are so hard to capture. I've been trying to shoot this one kingfisher that hangs out in the Viera Wetlands for over a year now. Even with the 500mm and 1.4 TC I have yet to get close enough for a decent shot.

    Good work John, just don't do it again. I'm already jealous.
  3. PJohnP


    Feb 5, 2005
    Harry :

    Thanks for the good thoughts.

    They are difficult to get, eh ? Even with "big glass", they're remarkably small in the viewfinder.

    Oh. :eek:  I guess I won't post the next series of shots, then. :biggrin:

    John P.
    Last edited by a moderator: Aug 23, 2005
  4. Fantastci these are #1 on my list also, these are portfolio standards for sure congrats
  5. Chris101


    Feb 2, 2005
    Great shots John! I'm glad you didn't use NR, as this could have obscured some of the superb detail - and the noise of 640 doesn't really bother me. It sounds like you had a fun session with this bird!
  6. Well that's certainly not a bird you see every day. In fact I can't remember if I have ever seen one. Well done John.
  7. PJohnP


    Feb 5, 2005
    Mike :

    Yah, I used to see them along the Delaware-Raritan canal on walks when I lived in NJ, but it didn't have the glass to get more than specks in the frame in those days. :Angry: But life's gotten a lot better in that regard. :smile:

    Thanks for the good thoughts.

    John P.
  8. PJohnP


    Feb 5, 2005
    Chris :

    Oh, it was a wonderous time ! I was there for almost two hours, and I used several CF cards in that time...

    But now I've promised Harry that I won't post any of the even better photos I landed later. Ah, well. :Shy: :Whistle:

    John P.
  9. PJohnP


    Feb 5, 2005
    Gordon :

    Thanks for the kind words.

    I'll bet you have KFs in your area - I've seen them in the Dixie National Forest and along the Escalante, not to mention to the south of you in AZ. Of course, you may also find Green Kingfishers, which are somewhat smaller than Banded Kingfishers, and a whole lot smaller than Ringed Kingfishers. Banded Kingfishers are probably the most widely distributed of these in the U.S.

    Neat, neat birds - a variety that's intensely fascinated me since I was a kid, although for the life of me, I couldn't tell you what originally triggered that all these years later. Maybe that means I'm getting old when I can't remember everything perfectly ! :Shocked: :D izzy: :Shocked:

    Anyway, kingfishers are a large family, even if we only have three types here in North America. You can find them all over the world, even Australia, where the Laughing Kookaburra is a relation.

    And I plan to find and photograph as many types as my travels permit !

    John P.
  10. John I think you did a fantastic job with the subject at hand. I too have been challenged by this little guy and they're not easy to get. Not only did you get him but look at the size of the thing? :Shocked:
  11. Nice shots. Howd you manage to get so close? These guys are usually so skittish..
  12. PJohnP


    Feb 5, 2005
    Harris :

    Thanks for the kind thoughts.

    As for getting close, this was the culmination of checking out good locations over three trips to the area, stopping at this location every day for two weeks, and - hardest of all - a lot of patience.

    Having some "long glass" along with me on the trip also helped a bit... :tongue:

    John P.
  13. PJohnP


    Feb 5, 2005
    Kevin :

    Yah, they're not terribly large in real life. I had mentioned in another thread (https://www.nikoncafe.com/vforums/showthread.php?t=52831) that I wanted to get a full frame shot of a kingfisher. These weren't quite in that range, but I think I kept maybe 60%-plus of the image, so that wasn't too bad as things go.

    Now, if I could just find myself in the right place to get these in sunlight, well... :rolleyes: 

    And thanks for the kind thoughts.

    John P.
    Last edited by a moderator: Mar 15, 2017
  14. drueter


    Apr 24, 2005
    Southeast Texas
    Great shots of a very difficult target, John! I've only had one chance to photograph a kingfisher and was so far away with my 300+1.4TC that it took a lot of cropping to get a decent size view. Nice capture!
  15. Cant say I have ever seen one, but on my hit list one day. Elusive, and what a beautiful bird. Lucky dog!
  16. PJohnP


    Feb 5, 2005
    Don :

    Thanks for the kind thoughts. I've shot a lot of KF images that I couldn't crop to my satisfaction, so I feel your pain...

    But you do have some alternatives.

    If you're in SE Texas, you're probably in spitting range of the LA border. If you go over on I-10 to Sulfur, then south on LA27 to Cameron, you'll see Banded Kingfishers about every 100' or so on the power lines. Problem is, LA 27 is on a raised gravel causeway through the Sabine Nature Reserve, and there's almost no shoulder to pull over onto.

    I was in Port Arthur/Beaumont in December for a couple of days, and was able to get one very rainy late afternoon on LA 27 with only middling results, sadly. The whole round trip back along the Gulf over to Port Arthur on Hwy 82 is filled with great birds, though.

    There are also a lot opportunities around the "Golden Triangle" if you're that far south.

    John P.
  17. Flew


    Jan 25, 2005
    Nice job John. I've tried to get a few shots of these guys, but they always seem to fly on the other side of the pond. :cool: 
  18. Gordon Large

    Gordon Large Guest

    Hi John -

    Way cool images, and your description of what happens really helps bring them to life. I hope you get the rest of the series up quickly!

  19. PJohnP


    Feb 5, 2005
    Keith :

    Thanks for the kind words.

    I don't recall ever seeing Banded Kingfishers in Alberta, but my Sibley's does show the summer range extending well up, perhaps as high as the Lesser Slave Lake. It's certainly possible you could find one around a river or small lake. I've seen them in the northern U.S. states in winter, but Edmonton area's a bit more harsh.

    And they're quite a bit more colourful in full sun - see https://www.nikoncafe.com/vforums/showthread.php?t=52831 for a better lit version (albeit more cropped).

    John P.
    Last edited by a moderator: Mar 15, 2017
  20. PJohnP


    Feb 5, 2005
    Frank :

    I feel your pain. I've been trying to get shots at this sort of range for years.

    What's that they say about stuff like this ? Ah. "Sometimes it's better to be lucky than to be good."

    John P.
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