Saturday, 17 January 2015

Black-headed Gulls

Many British animals are overlooked by people everyday. I myself am guilty of overlooking the seemingly 'common' species on our doorstep. Whilst out with my camera, I couldn't help but notice the number of Black-headed Gulls I kept seeing. Lakes, coasts, cities, farmland, all habitats teeming with these birds, yet I rarely photograph them. I decided to therefore try out some different techniques on these birds, to practice my craft, and what better subject than a bird of which there are 2.2 million of over winter in this country. They are a sociable, quarrelsome and very noisy birds so they make for great action photographs, yet they can provide a beautiful subject as well - as you will see.

I began by photographing Black-headed Gulls at sunrise. If you get the right weather, mornings on lakes can be extremely beautiful. Light mist, combined with the rising winter sun can create this wonderful golden light, as seen in the pictures below.

The golden hours at dusk and dawn are perfect for photography. The lighting and colours are so rich and it is also the time at which most animals are at their most active. I think that places can be transformed at dusk and dawn. Locations which do not justify a second glance during the day can be transformed into a magical setting.

Black-headed Gulls are often more populous in urban landscapes. I was able to get much closer with my camera when I photographed the birds in Bristol. I used a 10mm lens to take the photograph below and the Gull was maybe a foot away from the camera. I used a flash to freeze the action but the slightly longer shutter speed has created some slight blur around each bird, which I think shows the movement of the birds well. They are a sociable, quarrelsome and very noisy birds meaning that when one finds food, the others soon notice and try to fight over the best bits. I did fear for my camera and hands at one point whilst out in Bristol.

Another technique I have been using is panning. I have never really done this with wildlife so thought I'd try it with Black-headed Gulls. For those who don't know what this is, I will explain. If you pan with your subject, keeping it in the same position of the frame and use a long exposure of around 1/30th of a second, your subject will be sharp but the background will become blurred. 
I really like the technique - it shows movement really well and can produce interesting colours and textures in an otherwise boring background. The photograph below shows the type of image produced. 

I personally prefer this photo (below). The composition creates a more chaotic scene, showing the nature of these birds well. It looks, to me, more like a painting than a photo, showing that you can create very artistic photos with a camera. 

I am going to continue photographing these birds, to reveal more about their lives and to attempt to show them in a more pleasing manner than many people think of them. Watch this space. 

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