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Last year I happened to see an Osprey catch a fish on the beach and then land on the beach to start eating it. At the time, I hadn’t seen this happen before. Usually, they catch the fish and bring them high up on a building or tree before they settle down with it. But this was a great photo opp since it’s hard to photograph these birds at eye level, while also doing something interesting.

Since then, I’ve never seen this happen again. I’ve walked the beach a hundred times and sat on my balcony watching Osprey fly by countless times – but they’ve never landed with a fresh catch again. It was like lightning struck the day I was there, and would never happen again. Until Tuesday…

My wife and I were sitting on our balcony (we have a place on the beach near Clearwater FL) drinking some coffee and eating breakfast. I looked out over the water and saw a bright white “something” flying toward us. It was low on the water and too small to be a pelican. I could see it was a bird carrying a fish, and it was too big to be most other shorebirds, so I grabbed my Sony Alpha 1 which always has my 200-600mm on it, and was ready for it to fly by. Getting those eye level / low-to-the-ground photos in flight are always interesting, and you never know when another bird is going to fly in to try to take the fish.

Wind and Sun

Well… instead of it flying by my balcony, which is the direction it was headed, it landed on the beach. So I ran down with a towel and sat about 50 yards away from it for 20 minutes waiting for it to take flight again. I could have probably been there longer, since it didn’t seem in any rush and was happy enough to snack on the fish there. But eventually some people walked up to it trying to take photos with their cell phone and it got spooked. Once, it just grabbed the fish and flew about 10 feet closer to me. But the second time this happened, it decided the people were annoying, and it took flight.

The conditions actually couldn’t have been more perfect. The sun was at my back (and low enough in the sky still) with my shadow pointing straight at the Osprey. This is crucial so you don’t have any harsh shadows on the bird and so the birds wings, etc… don’t cast any harsh shadows on itself. And the wind was at my back, which meant when it did take off, it should fly almost straight at me – and it did.

f/6.3 | 1/4000th | ISO 500
Cropped In Tight

Settings

The photo was taken with my Sony Alpha 1 + 200-600mm lens combo. This is my keep-on-at-all-times lens. I was at f/6.3 and 1/4000th of a second with ISO 500. I usually shoot at 1/3200th but since I had so much light and the ISO was so low, I upp’d it to 1/4000th.

I was on Continuous focus mode with a Wide AF Area and evaluative metering (which I never change). The camera locked on the eye while the Osprey was on the ground, but as usual, I’m not steady enough (especially as tightly cropped as I was) to allow the camera to track the eye in flight, so it locked on the head or the eye for most of the photos.

The photo was processed in Lightroom Classic (I just pressed Auto and I was done). It didn’t need any sharpening or noise reduction so LR Classic and a quick 4×5 crop was it. Oh and I did replace the eye, since the eyelid was closed and looked odd (yes, I know it’s technically called the nictitating membrane so no need to remind me). Since the photos before and after this shot had the eye open, it literally took me 20 seconds in Photoshop.

Another Photo and a Question

Here’s another photo of the Osprey just as it took off. I do like how you can see the sand in the air a bit. I’m sure some will like one or the other, but that’s not my question. I already know which one I like better. But there’s a bigger question I would like to hear your thoughts on.

f/6.3 | 1/4000th | ISO 640

Does the bloody fish bother you? I typically prefer the freshly caught fish, where the bird hasn’t started eating it yet and is just carrying it. But this is nature, and this is what animals do to their prey. And it’s not like I sell my photos, or I’d expect anyone to put this up on their wall whether it had a bloody fish or not.

But I go back and forth on sharing photos like this. For example, my wife looked at it and cringed which isn’t typically the response you want from people who see your photo. Especially one where I’m pretty proud of all aspects of it – framing, color, action, sharpness, background, light, etc… But sometimes we get caught up on the technicals of our photography, and we forget about the aesthetics. Kind of like insects. We can take a technically good photo of an insect, but if it makes people go “Ewwwweee!”, do you still share it? So it gets me thinking about whether I just captured a “technically” good photo and I’m biased because I know too much about what went in to the process and the result? Or is it sharable?

Thanks for stopping by. Please feel free to leave your comment about whether or not the bloody fish bothers you and if you would still share the photo.

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