Pelican Headthrow Sequence - 7 frames in 2 seconds

Jan 28, 2007
Redmond, WA
Here is a sequence of a brown pelican doing a headthrow. Shot with a D700 and Sigma 500mm f4.5 HSM.

I find a Pelican headthrow very difficult to photograph for the following reasons:

- It happens very fast – 2-3 seconds
- It does not happen frequently; requires a lot of patience; a bird does 1 headthrow every 3-4 hrs!!!
- It is difficult to keep the whole bird in the frame and in focus throughout the sequence. A lot of times, I ended up clipping the beak or its feet. A number of times, the camera autofocus got confused and in some of the frames, a portion of the beak was out of focus; with a long lens, the depth of field is very shallow – in this sequence, at 500mm, f8, and30’, the depth of field is about 6” on a Nikon D700.
- sometimes, the background is cluttered with other birds or rocks

I have been trying to capture the whole sequence for close to 4 yrs and finally succeeded on 11/30 (thanksgiving weekend). # of hours spent to capture this sequence = 50+ hrs over 4 yrs… no $ ROI L

These 7 frames were shot at about 3 frames/sec – whole sequence happened in about 2 seconds. Notice that the body and the feet of the pelican do not change during the whole sequence. All the action is in its head/beak.

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