As the sun dropped I decided to get my arse into gear so I headed round the meadows to catch a decent sunset. It was quite chilly, but when you find the swans in a prime location on the plot you tend not to feel the cold. I suppose you're that pre-occupied with landing some good shots that some of your senses become almost immune to the elements as your concentration levels are hiked somewhat. Mute Swans can be quite temperamental though, don't get too close, and beware otherwise you might get a pecked mush! During the last few years of photographing these birds I've had one or two close calls with them, but have never been clobbered as yet. Saying that, I'll probably get fettled during the coming nesting season when I push my luck near one of their nests. Down the years I've picked up a fair knowledge of their behaviour and especially their tolerance levels around people, or predators as they would percieve them. I always photograph from a safe distance, usually with my 300mm lens, although some Mute Swans are very tame and even feed from your hand, so getting up close to them is quite normal and they don't react. Never take them for granted though, as I've heard one or two stories where the swan has laid the law down and showed what it's capable of when riled.
As the sun was about to set I fired off a few frames - ISO 100, aperture priority, using a flashgun instead of built-in speedlight, and recording each image in RAW format at a resolution of 18 megapixels, pulling in massive files of 102 megabytes apeice. Mind you, these creatures are a lot easier to photograph than most birds, mainly due to the fact they aren't very mobile, especially on the water. A loaf of bread is a must. Swans at the far end of a pond will very quickly swim across to you at the chance of a feed. Once I was photographing Mute Swans with a dramatic sunset backdrop, then I ran out of Warburtons. Disaster! The birds buggered off in no time and there I was, feeling a bit blown out - they'd scoffed me 'quid-fifty' loaf and done a runner!!! For each good shot you achieve, you can easily land two or three poor ones, but taking plenty of shots will normally up the total of 'keepers' when you review them later on. You're obviously aware of the welfare of the swans as you're photographing them, especially when using a flashgun, although on this occasion they weren't at all startled by the bright light.
I photographed the swans at the waters edge for roughly ten minutes before packing my gear away and heading out of the reserve. There was no-one else around at this time, give or take the odd dog walker here and there, so the place was well calm - just the sounds of birdlife and a shotgun cracking in a nearby farmers field. Oh well, time to make me'sel scarce.
I don't know what it is that attracts me and the camera to Mute Swans. One this is certain though - the ability to capture nice photographs of these birds is never too far away when you've got the rights components in front of ya. Still waters, a sunset backdrop, a pair of swans - oh, and don't forget the loaf o' breed, eh.
Catch ya later, Ash