Common Tern diving for fish, Shadwell Basin, E1 (photos)

In an effort to balance coverage of the political nonsense that has been going on recently here are some photographs of a Common Tern diving for fish in Shadwell Basin.

Sequence One

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Have to admit these were taken in 2013 and our Wildlife Photography Section has spent the last 12 months saying “Ooh, I must do something with those photos.”

Anyway here they are in two sets, hope you enjoy them. (Thanks for the kind comments).

These are not technically perfect but almost… trouble is our¬†¬†Wildlife Photography Section just doesn’t do ‘almost’. Maybe two or three are reasonably sharp, none are pin sharp and a lot just aren’t sharp and would not be normally published. But as most people probably don’t care here they are.

(If you want to see what the standard for this type of photography is look at the image at the top of the RSPB Common Tern page. That’s sharp.)

Photo geek details at bottom of page.

Sequence Two

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Photo geek details

All photos taken with a Canon 7D, 70-200mm f2.8 L IS USM zoom. ISO ranged between 200 and 400 ISO as most shots would need a hard crop, so lower ISO would mean less noise in final image.

Shutter speed varied between 1/4000 and 1/6400, shot aperture priority to get most light in. 1/8000 would have been better although when the tern ‘stoops’ before it dives it is almost stationary. But when it rockets back out of the water it is really moving.

Fast shutter speed is not everything, the speed of the camera’s AF is also key, as is its metering and speed it process files during a sequence. The 7D is a very very good camera but this sort of work pushes it to its limits. A 1D Mk III or IV would be better.

All images shot as RAW, processed in Adobe Lightroom.

A longer (400 – 600mm) lens would have given a closer image of the tern but with a longer lens it is almost impossible to track birds. The 2.8 70-200 zoom lets lots of light in (better when using AF) and makes it easier to track bird.

Key to wildlife photos is understanding the behaviour of the animal in question. The tern was spotted fishing at the shallow end of Shadwell Basin (by Wapping Hydraulic Power Station) and over a period of a couple of weeks a technique for getting the shot was developed. Sometimes focus was manual for the spot where the tern hit the water, sometimes AF (servo) when bird in flight.

One technique is to keep both eyes open when shooting and just track the subject with your body.Taking the shot should be done using muscle memory, if you are faffing around thinking what to do when the bird dives you are not going to get anything.

It should also be noted that these are not two complete sequences, they are the best shots from five different sequences.

Always fun to try and capture this sort of behaviour, just don’t expect perfection on your first attempt. Or second. Or third…

And if you think these are difficult try a wagtail feeding on the canal – now that is tricky.


2 thoughts on “Common Tern diving for fish, Shadwell Basin, E1 (photos)

  1. I once had a lovely seabird offer to do me a big favour. Worked out marvellous, so I set him up with another local seabird and they hit it off straight away.

    I just think that one good tern deserves another.

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