Sunday, November 16, 2008

Mexico - Day 1 - 08 Nov 2008

Robin and I arrived at LAX and boarded a bus for the Port of Los Angeles, where the NCL Star waited for us to board her. After registration, security, and a quick meal our room was ready for us. We had a balcony on Deck 11 that allowed us stunning (ahem...) views of the pier and parking lot. I didn't mind. This gave me an opportunity to watch and photograph the small flocks of Heerman's, Western and California Gulls that flew, foraged and squabbled over the small bits of debris that littered the pier.

I tried using the Auto ISO setting on the Nikon D300 so that I could shoot a mininum 1/400 sec. at f/8. The camera would adjust ISO to the changing sun and shadows, but I found that I was disappointed in the resulting exposures. I felt that the camera was slow to focus and would produce too many overexposed frames. In the camera's defense, the lighting was harsh; between sunlit white buildings and dark shadows, there were few moments where flying birds were properly illuminated and allowed for clean captures. Still, I would go back to shooting Aperture-Priority (f/8) at ISO 400 for the rest of the trip. I did manage a few keeper flight shots of a Western Gull as it flew back and forth along the pier. It was followed shortly by a light-mantled, speckled-headed California Gull.

As the ship began pulling away from the pier the swirling waters began to attract a number of gulls, including this dark-mantled Western Gull. A fly-by Heerman's Gull flashed its square white elbow patches that Howell and Dunn mention are found in less than 1% of adult birds.

Leaving the harbor we watched as dozens of Brown Pelicans swarmed a nearby fish market that had already attracted dozens of California and Heerman's Gulls. A very dark-brown, first-year Heerman's Gull passed close enough to the ship to allow a capture. A presumed, third-cycle Heerman's Gull, also passed below us. This bird could also be a non-breeding adult.

As we left the Port of LA in our wake, the setting sun bade good evening to all, including a group of California Sea Lions already asleep on a passing buoy. This was one photo that Auto-ISO produced well (at ISO 1600)!

1 comment:

Denise said...

LOVE the sea lions. Very cool.

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