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Showcase 2022 Winner: Corey Raffel

By March 11, 2022June 17th, 2022No Comments
A Feral Apple Snail is Gripped Tightly in the Talons of a Snail Kite, 2022 Showcase First Runner-Up, Conservation © Corey Rafel
A Feral Apple Snail is Gripped Tightly in the Talons of a Snail Kite, 2022 Showcase First Runner-Up, Conservation © Corey Rafel

Artist’s statement

I like this image as the bands of the kite’s talons are an indicator of the extensive conservation efforts that are being made to increase the population of these birds.  The image really stood out to me for its sharpness that emphasizes the scales on the talons and the text on the bands, for the inclusion of the water droplets that show that the snail was just plucked from the marsh, and for the size of the snail.  I also like that the image shows how unusual snail kites are as raptors with their diet consisting almost entirely of snails, as their name suggests.  The image is, of course, of the kite in flight, and I really like to get flight shots.

How I got the shot

On this trip to Kissimmee, Florida, one of my goals was to get a photo of a snail kite in flight with an apple snail in its talons.  We took a marsh tour on an airboat, and I was fortunate to have many opportunities to do so.   By leaving my tripod behind and shooting with the Nikon 500mm f/5.6E PF ED VR lens, I was able to get sharp hand-held images with rapid shutter speeds that negated any issues with the rocking of the boat.

What I used

This image was taken with a Nikon D850 camera body and the 500mm lens mentioned above.  The light weight of the lens made hand-holding, a necessity on the boat, easy.  The camera settings were 1/4000 second @ f/5.6, ISO 500.  I was intrigued to learn about the increase in size and thickness of the kites’ beaks related to the introduction of the large feral apple snails and was pleased to see that the sharpness of the image allowed for a somewhat tight crop of the talons and snail.

About me

I am an amateur wildlife photographer based in the San Francisco Bay Area.  My favorite subjects for photographs are parrots in the wild.  I purchased my first wildlife photography kit in 2016, specifically to take on a trip to see wild parrots.  One of the great things about looking for wild parrots is that you see lots of other animal subjects while looking for the birds.  Despite my interest in parrots, I am quite content to photograph any animal that I see.

I am a neurosurgeon by profession.  This means that I demand precision and am quite intolerant of sloppiness.  Thus, I really strive to take images that I call “scalpel sharp,” rather than tack sharp!  With this desire for perfection, photography always remains a challenge, as one can always take a better image that any one has taken previously.

My photographic journey

As mentioned above, I initially became interested in wildlife photography to take photos of parrots. Like many photographers, I started out with a good kit that has been
upgraded as my standards for images increased over time.  I do love seeing new animals to photograph and to learn about them. I consider my main mentor to be Steve Perry, but I have many people who have helped me improve my photography.

NANPA and me

My wife and I joined NANPA in August, 2019.  We really like the webinars and have learned a lot from them.  I have had other photos that have placed in the Top 100 and in the Top 250 of the Showcase Competition.  We hope to participate in some of NANPA’s Regional Field Events in the future.

Learn more

I do wish that there was a website that was made for nature photographers where nature photographers could post their images and receive both constructive criticism and compliments about their images.  Unfortunately, I have not found one to date.  Because I have been asked by my friends to post my images for them, I have been doing so by default on Instagram, where my tag is @cr_wildlife