A Flock of Elegant Terns Takes Off, Moss Landing, California, 2023 Showcase Judges’ Choice, Birds © Kevin Lohman
Judges’ Choice: Birds
Why is this photo special?
I have visited this location many times, and I have seen something different each time, but I had never seen so many terns on this pond. It was a rare clear day with bright sun, and there was no wind so the pond was like glass. I watched the terns, looking for something interesting to photograph. Several times they would suddenly take off, fly around for a few minutes, then settle back down.
When making this image, I knew the birds would fly off again at some point, and I wanted to capture that moment of chaos. I also wanted to maximize the reflection in the water, so I stood high enough to see a reflection, and found a position that minimized background distractions. Because of my distance from the terns I used a long lens, and because their takeoff was unpredictable I used a tripod to hold the camera. I kept the sun at my back to reduce shadows, and setup the tripod about 5 feet off the ground in order to see the terns reflected in the water. Then I waited for them to take flight. When they took off, it all came together.
The technical stuff
Sony A1 with a Sony 400mm f/2.8 lens plus a Sony 1.4x teleconverter (for an effective 560mm focal length), on a tripod, with manual camera setting and using auto ISO. The image was made at 1/4000 second at f/4.0, ISO 400, -0.7 EV. I then developed the image in Adobe Lightroom and Topaz DeNoise.
I am a nature photographer living in Santa Cruz, California, specializing in wildlife photography. I have been doing photography on and off for more than 35 years, focusing on nature photography the past 5 years. I recently retired from my day job, and, since then, I have been able to do nature photography full time. Most of my photography is made while exploring the coastal areas of Central and Northern California, and I venture out worldwide when the opportunity arises.
I enjoyed playing around with a point and shoot camera as a kid, but I started using a “big” camera when I was in graduate school and I needed to document my research. After a few years, I tried photojournalism, event photography, and a few weddings. I really got into photography when I became a yearbook photo editor, and new experiences have kept me engaged and ready to pick up my camera allowing me to meet new people, get behind the scenes at events, and, now, quietly and respectfully observe animals in their natural habitats.
I have been a member of NANPA since November 2017. The 2023 Showcase is the third NANPA Showcase to which I submitted images, and I have been recognized in all three showcases. In 2023, I have been recognized for this Judges’ Choice (Birds), and I have 4 images in Top 100 and 2 images in Top 250. The two previous NANPA Showcases were in 2020 (one Top 100 image) and 2021 (one Top 250).
I was watching a snowy egret hunting for sand crabs close to sunset when I noticed the sky getting very red. I decided to see if I could make an image of the sunset reflecting off wet sand behind the egret. Just as I positioned myself the egret caught a sand crab and tossed it in the air before swallowing it. I checked the back of my camera and saw that I got what I had hoped for. This became my first NANPA Showcase Top 100 image and it is still one of my favorites.
See all of the Top 26 winning images from NANPA’s 2023 Showcase nature photography competition.
See all of the Top 250 images from the 2023 Showcase competition in the 2023 edition of NANPA’s Expressions journal.