I was out yesterday morning doing some fieldwork for my upcoming eBook on bird photography and happened to catch a tern skim fishing.
While terns usually fish from above, diving into the water to catch fish, they will also sometimes fly low to the water and skim the surface with their beaks to catch fish. This short article shows this tern fishing behaviour.
NOTE: Click on images to enlarge.
The above frame shows the tern starting its skim fishing motion.
The tern’s beak is now just under the surface of the water.
If you photograph this tern behaviour using a fast AF-C rate (I was shooting at 10 frames per second) you can usually capture a dramatic frame like the one above.
Fortunately terns usually fish like this on calm surfaces which helps create some nice reflections of the action.
If you look closely in the above frame you’ll see that the tern’s tongue is visible.
If the tern continues to fly along the surface of the water do not stop your AF-C run. This usually indicates that the tern was not successful and may do another skim fishing action.
The photograph above is 6 frames later in the run. You can see that the tern is a bit closer to the water and getting ready to skim fish again with one foot touching the water.
The tern has dipped its beak to the water for a second skim fishing attempt.
Another interesting frame as the tern creates a wake on the surface of the water.
Another dramatic frame with an interesting body posture and a good splash in the water, coupled with a reflection on the smooth surface.
A double splash combined with an angled head position.
After the second skim fishing attempt the tern began the rise up over the surface of the water. Being unsuccessful it continued to fish using its ‘dive from above’ technique.
While using camera gear that is appropriate for the type of bird photography you are doing is important, observing subject birds and learning about their behaviour is key to capturing action shots.
All photographs were captured hand-held in available light using Nikon 1 gear as per the EXIF data. Images were produced from RAW files using my standard process of DxO PhotoLab, CS6 and the Nik Collection.
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