Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Photographing White Pelicans at Lake Hodges

White Pelicans, Lake Hodges, San Diego, CA

I am enjoying the longer daylight because of Daylight Savings Time right now. After a day's work, we now could enjoy the great outdoors longer, for the sun sets at around 7 pm now. Last Friday, we were greeted by a lot of white pelicans at Lake Hodges. Of course, there are other birds as well, as Lake Hodges has been designated as Globally Important Bird Area.

During weekdays, we usually do not take a long hike because we start hiking late in the afternoon already, after work. We usually take the 3.8 mile hike at Piedras Pintadas Trail of Lake Hodges, which is along the South Shore. Lake Hodges is our favorite hiking trail for bird photography. The lake is teeming of wild birds, where the South Shore is home to numerous marsh, shore and riparian bird species.

Here are some pictures of white pelicans captured by hubby.


Hubby's Camera Settings:
Aperture: f4.0
Shutter Speed: 1/800 seconds
ISO: 100

these white pelicans flew when the guy from the North Shore got off his bike to take photos/video of these magnificent huge birds with his cell phone

And here are some pictures captured by me.


My Camera Settings:
Aperture: f5.6
Shutter Speed: 1/500 seconds
ISO: 100

Hubby and I are not competing for pictures. :) We are a team, because we use different lens. His lens is more for action ( very fast ) to capture wildlife photos which mostly are in fast motion, while mine has wider angle, which is more for landscape. My inclination is more into landscape photography, however, who could not resist taking photos of the white pelicans? From landscape, I turned into wildlife photography as well. :)

Photographing Birds:

Both hubby and I did not have any formal lesson on photography. We are both hands-on learners. I am actually even guilty of not reading any photography books. As soon as I got my first camera before, I played around with the interplay of exposure, shutter speed, aperture, ISO, white balance, etc, from the camera itself, not from the manual. I used my judgment as to what works and what does not at certain conditions. For me, it was all about experimentation, and experimenting is part of my job. :)

For bird photography, here are some things I have learned:

1. Have patience, learn to slow down when hiking if you want to see and capture birds. You may even have to learn to stop. Birds may appear right in front of you when you are not moving much.

2. It's hard to chase birds with your camera and lens, they are much faster than your reflexes, especially the peregrine falcons, who could fly over 200 miles per hour. If I see a bird flying, I kind of project its path and wait for it to appear in my frame, then, quickly focus and click. Camera must be set in high speed servo shooting, to allow you to shoot multiple frames in one second since you have no idea which click has better focus.

3. Shutter speed is important. For white pelicans, because they are not as fast flying birds compared to the peregrine falcons and hawks, it was safe enough for us to choose 1/500 seconds. But to be safe, it is always good to have at least 1/1000 seconds, even faster than that if it is a peregrine. Our cameras don't perform well at high ISOs ( becomes pixelated), thus, we usually stay with ISO-100 if there is enough light and just use the widest aperture opening of the lens, that could give us faster speed. At very low light however, we have no choice but to up our ISO, but usually, I up it to a point where the pixelations could hardly be noticed.

How to learn when you are a newbie? 

Actually, we are newbies too when it comes to bird photography. We learn mostly from reviewing our pictures and comparing it to the camera settings used and the lighting conditions that day. Hiking and photography helps in exercising our brains for memory recall and analytical thinking.

We also learned from fellow bird photographers who always give us tips on not only shooting parameters, but where to shoot for birds. They sure are such a joy to meet, since they want you to be happy too. There is always that respect for each other's hobbies and interests, and a joy to share that you'd strongly feel when you are around them.

Hiking, nature and wildlife photography is one way of meeting fellow enthusiasts who love nature too and passionate about keeping a balance in our beautiful, and wonderful world.
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  1. wow...it is indeed very nice to watch those pelicans at the lake, must be too noisy with the sounds they do too.

  2. thank God for these nice photos now I have a good site of what pelicans look like, lol. but seriously, they're not locals back home, we have only have ducks :(... thanks for the tips Betchai :)

  3. both of your captures were breathtaking, Beth! very talented couple you are! i would love to see pelicans in a wide open space. only able to appreciate them in a limited space inside the bird park. i think if ever i visit SD, one year won't be enough. too many places to explore with you! hehehe!

  4. For my eyes - your captures are not that of newbie photogs shooting birds. They are awesome!

    Good to know you're now enjoying longer daylight. Here in my neck of the woods, though daylight is out longer, the outdoors is still too cold for us to explore. Hoping we'll have more seasonable temps in the next few days.

  5. These pictures looks wonderful. I can't take a decent shot of birds, always wrong timing. lol

  6. isang pangarap ka na lang pangarap white pelican hehe..what a photo! beautifully captured!

  7. Your pictures are always fabulous, and not that of a newbie! Thanks for all the tips on photographing birds..

  8. oh, my! what a treat....:) these are gorgeous photos!

  9. I love that shot of the single pelican in plight! We used to watch the same when we were in Korea.

  10. Wow! Look at all the beautiful pictures of the pelicans that you guys captured. They are all really amazing shots :-) I am awe as always with both of your photography skills Sis :-)

  11. Bird photography is such a hard thing for me to do as it would take a great shot to do it. Patience really is the key to get good shots. Most of the time, I could just produce one great shot and others were like terrible. Great tips though!

  12. While you're now enjoying the longer daylights, out here it's gonna be shorter so soon. It's now beginning to get dark as early as 5pm. How polarized we are, Te Betchai! Hehehe!

    Anyways, I can't get enough of the pelicans! I always loved your amazing captures of them! These are definitely amazing shots coming from a pro! I am always mesmerized by God's beautiful creations!

    Have a beautiful weekend, Te Betchai!

    Love and hugs always!