In my previous article, I introduced to you the spectacular eider family, which I met in Båtsfjord harbour. I voluntarily concealed the other observations I made this morning, partly because it took me too long to edit all my pictures, partly because I wanted the content of the article to fit the title…
Thus, among those other species, there was one dear to my heart. I saw it on occasions in Denmark during winter, but only from a distance, and I was really looking forward to an opportunity to see it at close range, for it’s truly stunning.
The Long-tailed duck (Clangula hyemalis) is, well, a long-tailed duck, much like the Northern pintail (Anas acuta) except it dives. Common in the waters of Varanger, I found this species a bit more distant from our hide than the others, but we were gifted with a few close passings of both males (what a plumage :o) and females (short-tailed but really cute).
I particularly like this last picture, because this lady is looking at me, creating a strong link between the viewer and the subject. I had trouble with the males, for one specific reason: I didn’t know what autofocus area selection mode to use. Usually, I use the single-point spot AF, since it allows me to aim very precisely. I also mostly use the central focus point (I thought it allowed for better focus capabilities since it’s a dual cross type point, but apparently that’s only available to f/2.8 and larger apertures), because usually the birds don’t fill the frame, and by a large margin. There, because I always aim for the eye, I ended up with half the frame empty, and the tail of the duck cropped out (situation 1, see the beautiful Paint drawing below). On the other hand, if I had decided to move the focus point to the right, it would have been good if a bird had come from the left (situation 2, or the other way around, situation 3). but I would have been completely off had a bird come from the right (situation 4).
In the hide, the other photographers told me they used “something that automatically detects movement”, but they were not able to explain precisely what it was. If you have any experience with this struggle, please leave a comment, I’d be happy to talk about it 🙂
In addition to the ducks, we had the visit of gulls, including a kittiwake (Rissa tridactyla) and two Glaucous gulls (Larus hyperboreus), a young bird and a dazzling adult. Glaucous gulls are rather similar to Herring gulls (Larus argentatus), except they are a bit larger and their wingtips have no black at all (remember that Iceland gull in Gilleleje?). In the harbour, the challenge was to spot the few Glaucous in the mass of Herrings 🙂
After a few hours facing the red building (you can see its reflections in many pictures), I moved to another corner of the hide, and faced the sun. I wanted to play with its own reflection, but the camera had trouble focusing in these conditions. Still, I think I got some decent shots.
To give you an idea of the proximity we had with the ducks, here is a picture made with a 28mm focal length (on a cropped sensor). They were really close!
Finally, I have a souvenir shot from inside the hide:
After this epic, I rested a little, loaded the pictures on my computer, and then we left and drove back south, to reach the Varangerfjord again.