Laysan Albatross, pan and blur.

Continuing with the Midway Atoll shots and a Laysan Albatross sweeps low over the water making for an interesting pan and blur image.    There are a couple of locations on the main island of the Midway group,  Sand Island,  which have intriguing names dating back to the time when the US Navy was in occupation.   Names like “Rusty Bucket” and “Bulky Dump” that now have visitors wondering how the names came into being.

Today’s image was taken at Bulky Dump where the waves constantly roll into the coast and the albatross,  both laysans and black-footed soar and sweep effortlessly over the water.    The albatross really are extraordinary fliers,  once airborne they hardly ever flap their wings merely gliding on air currents,  changing direction,  climbing, or diving with just a slight change in head, tail, or wingtip position.    We spent hours watching and photographing,  them as they glided swiftly over setting and breaking waves as shown here,  just centimetres above the water.   Very occasionally one would just touch a wingtip into the surface of the water but so gently as to not disrupt its flight.

After taking numerous,  let’s call them “conventional”,  photographs of these birds utilizing fast shutter speeds to try and avoid motion blur.   It occurred to me that they would make a good subject for a pan and blur shot as well.

Pan and Blur Photography.

As I explained on the blog some time ago,  pan and blur photography relies on the use of slower than usual shutter speeds combined with a smooth panning movement of the camera.   With a short lens in use, this can be done successfully handheld,  but when using a 500mm telephoto lens as was the case here,  a gimbel mount on a sturdy tripod is the answer.   I experimented with numerous shutter speeds from 1/15 second upwards with a good result here at 1/50 second.    It’s necessary to take a lot of frames because the results aren’t always predictable.   No matter how smoothly you think you’re panning,  sometimes you just won’t get it right and of course the birds are moving at considerable speed as well so keeping up with them is a challenge.    The beauty of digital over film is that it really doesn’t matter if you take 10 frames or 500 frames to get what you’re after.   No changing rolls of film,  no processing costs, and instant feedback via the LCD screen on the back of the camera.  Thank you digital photography revolution!

Laysan Albatross skimming wave, Midway Atoll

This image is part of the Midway Atoll gallery.

For more on pan and blur techniques,  check out my posts,   wildebeest-blur, and pan and blur techniques.

Via social media, 5 thoughts on “Laysan Albatross, pan and blur.”

Chip "Roket Man" Allen says: “Really appreciate the lesson, KD. I’ve got a lot of catching up to do but I’ll make the time to read everything you’ve posted while I’ve been serving as a crash test dummy for the medical practitioners. That’s one beautiful shot!”

Carrie says: “You see so few of this type of photo. I can imagine all the shots it must take to finally get it right. You did a great job. So fluid looking.”

KD says: Thanks Carrie.

Lisa RedWillow says: “This is beautiful. Fantastic photography…. After taking a break from my blog I'm back to blogging with a new address. When you have time I invite you to stop by.”

KD says: Thanks Lisa, I’ll be certain to check your new site.