Regular readers may remember that I was struck down by an unexpected and very serious illness earlier this year. As a results some photographs that I had taken just before my close encounter with the grim reaper have remained unsorted on my hard drive and I am only just getting round to them now. This include a set of photographs from a winter session with Water Rail.
Many reed dwelling birds such as water rail that often remain hidden from view will often venture out on to the ice of a frozen pond. Another bird species that is also commonly photographed during such times are Bittern. Unfortunately none are present at this time but I was more than happy to photograph the 'skating' Water Rails.
When photographing birds I always give careful consideration to how my position in relation to the bird will affect the background in terms of composition and colour. When using the longer lens for bird photography, due to the relatively narrow field of view, even small shifts in position can result in dramatic changes to the look of a photograph. This is particular the case when photographing birds on water or in the case of this session ice. A bird on open water or ice will take on the colour of the sky as the background when photographed from a slightly elevated angle. For example, the clear blue sky overhead is reflected on the ice as the Water Rail crossed an open section of the pond.
It gets a whole more interesting when a bird is around the margins as the water (or ice) takes on the colour of the reflected surrounding vegetation. For example if you visit a pond during a still autumn and there is a bankside tree with foliage of golden and rust hues you will notice that there area of reflected coloured water. Any bird photographed crossing this golden reflection will suddenly take on a whole new dimension.
Back to the Water Rails, where on the day the low early winter light was creating a wonderful golden glow to the ice as it reflected off the marginal reeds. I have posted this next photograph of a Water Rail, which had also ventured out on to the ice to show the area of transition, between the reflected blue of the sky and golden ice created by the reeds.
Taking this a step further then by shifting my position very slightly I was able to photograph the Water Rails stepping across areas of fully golden ice. Interesting as the position of the winter sun changed as it arced in a low trajectory across the sky the hues of the reflected area subtly changed which accounts for the variability you see in the following images.
I try and avoid being anthropomorphic but did smile when this Water Rail took on the 'Prima Ballerina' pose as if it was about to perform the premiere of 'Rail Lake'.
It was a very enjoyable session with the rails in some rare winter sunshine and on departing at the end of session I left some food out for them to help them through the icy conditions when energy demands to maintain body heat are so high.
Hopefully this post will give some of you inspiration to carefully think about your position and the 'colour' of water when you next find yourself photographing birds on a lake. Even a common bird such as a moorhen or mallard can takes on a whole new appearance when photographed on coloured water.