Cape Petrels

In January 2010 I was on a fantastic cruise to Antarctic Peninsula. This journey was my first vacation with my newly acquired DSLR, a Canon EOS 500D. I bought the camera together with two lenses, a standard zoom lens with 18-55mm and a tele zoom lens with 55-250mm.

55mm  f/5.6  1/800sec  ISO100
After two days of crossing the Drake Passage we saw the first land again. At this time our vessel was accompanied by hundreds of Cape Petrels. These lovely, black an white birds were flying all around the ship in swarms which was a very beautiful sight. Every time they changed direction the swarm's color changed, because the birds are mostly white from below and more black from above. Sometimes they came down low and the beautiful landscape became background of that scene. I was very fascinated by this happening and watched it for quite some time.

96mm  f/6.3  1/1000sec  ISO100
I took my camera and tried to catch some nice shots of this event. But I soon realised that it was everything, but easy. Since I was not familiar with all the settings I usually took photos with automatic mode. But with all the birds moving more or less fast in the sky, the automatic mode produced blurred photos only. What I next tried, was to use the 'Sports' mode, which is designed for fast moving object, like runners or racers. With this setting the results got much better. Capturing a wider part of the swarm with a lesser focal length was easy, but I also wanted to get single birds framed. This was much, much more difficult.

123mm  f/5  1/1000sec  ISO125
I first was searching the swarm for single birds separating and coming close to the ship. Then I raised my camera and tried to find it through the lens, which is not easy with a higher focal length. But the more difficult part was to follow it. Not only the bird was moving fast, the vessel itself also was rolling and pitching in the ocean. That's why most of those photos were either blurred or contained only parts of a bird. With some fortune I got it to capture a close up of one bird, that was quite sharp. If the overall composition of the scene was nice, too, which could be the case by fluke only, I was the happiest man around. From hundreds of photos I took of these birds only a handful was acceptable and this one here is my absolute favorite. I'm very proud of it.