Kingfisher Action

Late December & I had a chance to meet up with Mike again for another shoot. This time we were off to Winchester where Mike had booked a day in a hide photographing Kingfishers.

We got lucky; recent snow then rain, meant that the hides were flooded the day before but on the actual day they were just very damp & cold. It was going to be low light, but reports of a kingfisher, it would be fine. A single male had been visiting during the previous week, so I was looking forward to this. Kingfishers are one of my favourite birds to photograph, they are lightning fast and the colours & action are always amazing to watch.

We met just before dawn, after an easy two and a half hour drive, in the car park of a local supermarket. Once we had stocked up with food; Pete the owner came to meet us, then we were off to the hides.  Pete runs a great place with hides covering lots of different animals, including todays kingfisher.

With cameras and lens unpacked we settled in.  I was using the 600mm f4 and the 100-400mm f4.5-f5.6. It is always nice to plan your day and decide on what shots you are after.  The first time is a get what you can, after that, it is always good to have a list in your mind. For me, I was after some interesting perched shots with nice backgrounds, action shots, and entry & exit shots.  I love the way the Kingfisher comes out of the water, fish in beak with water droplets everywhere catching the light. But it is a shot that has eluded me in my many attempts. The day started with an early visit and a couple of instant catches, giving both of us plenty of time to capture some perched shots while battering his breakfast, always interesting shots, then down the hatch. We worked out that the kingfisher was visiting around every 20 minutes, couple of catches then off to a perch nearby to digest. 

Around his third visit I decided to concentrate on the dive shot. The kingfisher has the option to catch freely from the pond or take from a circular bowl floating in the water, I had decided to focus on the bowl. The perched shots had been taken using the 600mm f4, for this I went safe, using the 100-400mm, it would give me a wider frame area. I focused the 100-400 manually to the centre of the ring, with the Canon R5 attached, I know I had the frame rate & image size to crop close if needed. The kingfisher perched, the ring was then locked on with focus, gimbal locked, then wait, As soon as the kingfisher went to dive my finger was planted on the button until the bird was gone… wow…

I carried on with this technique for the next 3-4 visits, with some cracking results. As he slowed, I got time to capture a range of perched shots on one camera, while swapping cameras just as I saw the Kingfisher getting twitchy, ready for a dive. One of my aims on a day is to get the shots in as early as possible, once fed and relaxed, your subject will slow. On this day we managed around 10 visits, with plenty of perched shots from around the edge of the pond. It was a great day, not the best light, but my best results so far with Kingfishers and I’m sure this will not be my last. 

I am always a little excited at the end of a shoot, because I am not 100% sure what you have on the card. First job, turn the camera off, do not need to catch the wrong button. Once I get through the front door I copy the card twice, to two external drives, one set to work on, one just in case. I have used this system for the last 16 years, so whatever time I get home, the clients images, sports or nature, the same rule applies. Then the searching and processing can start which is always the fun part. Never knowing quite what I have captured.   There are always highs and lows.  Since getting the Canon R5, I have had a lot more highs because the larger file sizes and impressive tracking make the images are very sharp. So processing is minimal on these. A quick run through Photo AI then some basic processing…

What a fantastic day and one I will be enjoying again.    I will be running some workshops photographing Kingfishers in Spring 2023, keep an eye open for dates or Subscribe to our newsletter..

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