I was out for a walk on the beach at sunset a while back and came across some Royal Terns just hanging out. I stopped for a few minutes and realized I was in a really bad spot for photographing them since the sun was almost in my face, or just off to the side of it. Standing on the beach with the birds, meant I was facing West into the sunset, (as were the birds) and that usually doesn’t work.

So I kept walking down the beach looking for something. But the Terns were in the back of my head, since I had seen some of them splashing around in the water and I wasn’t seeing anything better ahead of me.

Then it hit me. Once May hits on the West Coast of Florida, the water is pretty warm. And when I’m spending time at the beach, I’m eternally dressed in beach attire clothes that can get wet. So why couldn’t I get in the water and photograph the Terns and get the sun at my back instead? It’s not like there is much wave action here in Clearwater – and this was a mostly calm evening.

So I did just that. I walked back, and got in the water. It’s very shallow along the beaches here, and you can walk out 20-30 feet and still be only knee high in water. Not really wanting to dunk myself, I just held the camera down toward the water (but above it of course and there were no waves), flipped out the LCD screen so I could frame the shot, turned on Image Stabilization and snapped a few frames of one of the terns taking a bath. I think it almost looked at me as if it was about to say “Hey… some privacy over here please! I’m taking a bath!!” 🙂

f/6.3 | ISO 1250 | 1/5000th | 200-600mm @600mm


I used the Sony Alpha 1 with the 200-600mm lens all the way out at 600mm. The photo was taken on Manual Exposure mode, at f/6.3 (lowest f-stop for that lens), 1/5000th of a second shutter, and ISO 1250.

I was in Continuous focus mode and I had the AF Area set to wide. I wasn’t close enough for eye auto focus to pick up, but as usual the Sony a1 performs impeccably and the focus locked on to the head which is plenty good enough.

I use Lightroom Classic to edit the photo (minimal toning and color changes needed) as well as cropping. And I used Topaz DeNoise AI for some noise reduction, which also happens to sharpen the photo nicely. All of this is covered in my Wildlife Editing Secrets course or my Topaz Deep Dive Course.

As always you can find links to all of my gear, computers, hard drives, etc… over on the Gear page which can be clicked on in the top menu (or just click here). And it’s always appreciated if you use the links on that page (even if you’re not purchasing that specific item) when buying anything. It doesn’t cost you a penny and it’ll help me out a bit 🙂

Another One

The main photo I shared is more of a portrait crop. And I like it better. But I thought I’d share one of the wider photos with you too, just as something different. This is from the same burst as the previous photo, just a different wing position. I like the first one (above) because the position of the wings lets you crop in tighter, yet still keep the whole tern + wings in frame. If I want to keep the wings in the shot, this one requires you to crop out a bit.

What do you think? Wide shot or tall shot?

One more for Good Luck

I was going to stop with the photo above, but if you really want to have some fun and get a close look at their behavior, I thought this was a quirky but fun photo to share as well. Again, same burst of photos, just different position. Thanks for stopping by!


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