images of australian wildlife

Swamp Harrier

Swamp Harrier

This was one of at about four Swamp Harriers patrolling the wide, marshy creek running inland from Port Campbell on this heavily overcast morning. I don’t often see Swamp Harriers in the places I go, so this was a great opportunity, especially as they seemed to like circling in the updrafts either side of the creek and showed no indication of heading elsewhere. As you can see, the light was terrible — I’ve done what I can to improve things but I’m no Photoshop wizard and in any case, the real answer is to get a better shot in the first place.

This shot makes a good example of some photographic dos and don’ts. First, always be prepared to stop what you are doing (driving to Peterborough, in my case) and take advantage of the unexpected. Do it now! If you leave it till later, the opportunity will almost certainly be gone. Second, always have your camera ready for instant action, with an appropriate lens mounted and all the settings that you are most likely to need (ISO, aperture, and so on) already entered. I made one mistake a little earlier: I left the 1.4 converter on even though the light was poor. This was foolish optimism — the worse the light gets, the more important it becomes to have good optics, and no lens-converter combination is as good as a bare lens. Not only do you lose crispness, with a converter on the autofocus is a good deal slower, and it gets difficult to keep a moving bird in-frame when your field of view is very small. The bare 500 would have done a better job.

No matter: it was the first time I got even half-usable Swamp Harrier pictures, and my guess is that they are around that area regularly (though I’ve been back twice and not seen them again), so this one will have to do till next time.