It's been a long time since I've taken such a big break between two blog series. However, from a photographic point of view, I simply needed a break after our trip to Iceland. After that, I had the „benefit“ of an extensive summer flu that lasted several weeks and really knocked me off my feet.
I have to admit, though, that high summer is never the most productive time for me anyway. The photography times are simply annoying, the good light only lasts for an ultra short time, mosquitoes and parasites are numerous and in the heat I don't like to take photos, especially in the evening. Actually, I would love to spend the height of summer in the north by the sea...🙄 But enough with complaining: now to the beautiful things.
Today I can show you a series from NRW/Germany, which regularly made my heart beat faster! The motif is an absolute classic that has been photographed many times. However, not yet by me 😅 It's about the kingfisher, Alcedo atthis.
This series is something very special for me, as the subject of kingfishers has a long history with me. With no other species have I made more attempts to photograph them properly in the last 13 years.
Already in 2009, with my first (500) Supertele from Canon, I made many attempts in the Rhine-Erft district, then still living in Cologne, and was able to observe kingfishers along the „Erft“ for many hours, but never from a really good distance of less than 25 metres. Later I managed to do so from shorter distances in various places, but never with really photogenic results.
Once you have internalised the call of the kingfisher, you hear and see it again and again, especially in NRW and the Netherlands, which happened to me a thousand times in the following years. Every now and then I got a "hot tip" about where to get a good shot of the kingfisher, but when I took a closer look, the photographic conditions on location were never quite right.
Most often, there were these 4 problems: the approach frequency is too low, the branches are clumsy or unphotogenic, a proper crop with nice bokeh is not possible or the light is too bad. I often had the latter at kingfisher habitats: right next to the perch there is dark/high vegetation - then the light in summer comes practically diagonally from above and the brightness distribution on the bird and the branch looks somehow unattractive, with dark shadows.
Somewhat enviously, over the years I regularly looked at the portfolio of the nature photographer Thomas Hinsche, who in my eyes has built up the most beautiful kingfisher portfolio known to me over many years.
So at the beginning of July I got another "hot tip" where kingfishers had been sighted. My expectation after the years was about as high as a put up 1 cent piece, but it turned out differently. Already at the first session the bird showed up at a good distance, but more importantly: the location, the crop and the incoming light looked really promising. Many thanks to Kevin 🖐 for the tip.
For the reasons mentioned in the introduction, I was able to visit this area "only" 13 times, as I was "out of order" for a bit longer. That was nowhere near enough for the many scenes and perspectives I have in mind for this. Especially as the approach frequency was unfortunately consistently down (to zero at the end) and the interaction was low as the young birds were flying out. That's why I see this series as a start and hope to be able to implement some of the image ideas next year at the latest.
But now to the birds: anyone who has ever been able to watch a kingfisher prey on a fish from a few metres away, looking through camouflage, cannot fail to be fascinated, in my opinion.
Kingfisher habitats are more often relatively natural. This means they have a lot of natural perching opportunities in their habitat. The approach frequency was therefore very different and totally random; on one day every 20 minutes (only at the beginning when the young birds were still there) and on another day after 3 hours none came.
I was impressed by the size - even from a short distance 800mm focal length was quickly "used up", a kingfisher is only 3cm bigger than a sparrow and weighs only 40 grams! And yet it still manages to catch fish steadily.
From a photographic point of view, I find the extreme blue particularly attractive; it hardly ever occurs so intensively in nature (at least in Europe) and always forms beautiful colour contrasts with the typical green/yellow/brown background colours. The icing on the cake are the many azure dots on the plumage and the long light stripe on the back - these two shine even in the dark or against the light.
As for the technology: except for one picture, the Nikon Z 800 6.3 was used here, which is a lot of fun with the modern image stabiliser and the lightness. What also made the sessions relaxed was the autofocus of the Z9 via the flip-up display. For the more beautiful backgrounds, I often had to take a very low position. A little too high for lying, too low for sitting - here I often photographed "handheld" via the flip-up display and only had to worry about the image composition, because with kingfishers there are no dropouts at all with regard to eye autofocus. This also made it possible to consciously look for colour transitions in the background - here you are simply faster from the hand.
I hope you enjoy the series and I wish you a beautiful late summer, which I will now spend photographically mainly with the heather blossom, whose "season" is now beginning.
With best regards, Thomas
PS: I just saw after uploading that I have over-sharpened some parts - if you find "little steps", you are welcome to keep them 😅
I hope you enjoyed the series 😀🖐