Osprey Catches Rainbow Trout by Michael Watson – the story behind the picture

Osprey Catches Rainbow Trout by Michael Watson

It started with a drive up north to Scotland to get a few Osprey pics. I got up every day at 4.30ish in cold damp conditions and drove for 45 minutes to get to the hide before dawn so the birds can’t see you. Then it’s just set up and wait, fingers crossed the weather and birds will play ball. Unfortunately with wildlife, neither is guaranteed and as it’s Scotland there was rain, fog and sun in equal proportions with multiple hours of nothing but stare out across the water thinking why I do this?!!! Multiple hours of boredom, talking camera stuff and watching the odd deer and heron as the Ospreys fly over then disappear into the distance…the joys of wildlife photography. Still, it gives you the chance to swap stories, camera advice, places to go and make contacts with fellow deranged people.

The advantages of solitude and cleansing of the mind from a week at work was punctuated by the arrival of the Ospreys. They may be big but they are damn fast. You can’t see them from the hide but you can hear them scream on occasion so you have to be ready to shoot. My camera was the Canon 1DMK4 with the Canon 300 f2.8 MK2 lens. This set up let me shoot at the preferred focal length for the distance they will be at but, above all, it’s one hell of a fast focusing lens.  The camera has a good pixel density for cropping and gives very good image quality up to ISO 2000  and with a recommendation from a fellow wildlife bloke on focus settings this completed the camera/lens set up. The pic was done in manual mode. That’s manual ISO, shutter speed, aperture and white balance. Constant checking of histograms with practice shots prior to the bird’s arrival and shooting manual gives me total control over exposure and depth of field and helps especially for the highlights rather than letting the camera do the work. It’s shot in spot focus too rather than evaluative as the latter tends to underexpose. It’s a bit old school but it seems to work. You can do it similar in AV mode and adjust exposure compensation. Depth of field was f7.1 for a bit of background detail and shutter 2000 to freeze the water/fish which unfortunately froze the bird but you can’t have everything. The water gives the sense of movement rather than the bird.  Other shots I did it was the bird with the movement.

When the birds strike they can hit in any direction but tend to fly into the wind for lift off. I moved between hides, changing each morning (no moving once you’re in the hide) with fingers crossed wanting different shots and with this one I hoped for a side on shot. The bird hit a deep bit of water caught a fish and rather than sit in the water as they do to turn the fish into the wind, it had caught it head on and flew up almost immediately. You have a split second to lock on and start shooting as they hit and fly off in an instant. And that was it for that morning.

Then it’s back to the hotel, have a look, keep within the rules of wildlife for post processing and bobs your grandma. I loved the craic with the other lads, learned a lot and got some great contacts. My advice is get a camera and a 70/300 lens and give it a go. Just be aware of the addiction wildlife can have on already addicted gear heads like me. You will be poorer, worn out and wonder why you do it, especially when you get nothing. But one day, you will get that shot you are after and all the times your head’s done in sitting in that cold damp hide will be worth it.


Jan 2014

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