Anatomy of a photo #55: The Red-throated Loon rises

Red-throated loon rising from the water to beat droplets from its wings

It was a grey and foggy day. Not so distant shores were hidden by the thick, low lying vapors. The birds were thick, as the winter migrants were making their presence known on the bay, and settled in for the season.

I was busy photographing a Yellow-billed Loon, which is a rare bird in our area, sometimes with years between sightings. (There will be some photos in a post very soon) I was not so busy with the yellow-bill however, that I would neglect one of its more common cousins, a Red-throated Loon, especially as it began rising up to beat water from its wings, providing a little drama to a grey scene.

Loons, along with many other waterfowl, such as grebes, geese, murres, cormorants, and more will rise up from the water like this and beat their wings. It is often done prior to taking off (to shed some water and some weight), or while they are preening and grooming (which can also involve removing water, or just snapping groomed feathers back into place).

This is one of my favorite times to photograph waterfowl. The wings are spread, and can be in interesting positions or angles. Much of the body is visible. It is a behavior just far enough from the norm to capture the viewers interest, while being common enough that the photographer doesn’t have to wait for days to see it happen.

I took this photograph from my kayak with a 300mm lens on my digital SLR. I hand held the camera, as tripods can be counter productive on a boat. The lens was image stabilizing or vibration reducing, depending on your terminology. This gave me two extra full stops of play in the lower light of the overcast day, allowing me a fast enough shutter speed to compensate for lens shake.

The fairly wide open aperture gave the background scene of pelicans a nice blurriness, such that they only hint at what they are, leaving the audiences attention focused on the loon, which while centered from side to side is at the bottom of the frame for a better flow.

Here are some images I took of this same loon, but in these photos it is a Walking Loon

About Galen Leeds Photography

Nature and wildlife photographer, exploring the world on his feet and from his kayak. Among other genres, he is one of the leading kayak photographers in Northern California. To learn more about him, visit him on his website-
This entry was posted in Anatomy of a photo, birds, kayak photography, loons, nature photography, photography, wildlife photography and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to Anatomy of a photo #55: The Red-throated Loon rises

  1. Emad says:

    Great Post !

  2. Thank you for sharing with us how and why you do these things. It is very instructive.

  3. lindayoga says:

    Stunning…Simply stunning.

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