Some of my Favorite Cluttered Pelican Images

By January 16, 2024January 22nd, 2024Pelicans of La Jolla, Seabird

The first two weeks of 2024 have been great as far as photographing wildlife in La Jolla is concerned. Many mornings the weather has been typically “winter perfect” (shorts and hoodie) and we have consistently had large swells rolling in which leads to a lot of flight activity in all the birds.  La Jolla Cove’s bodysurfing sea lions — my main focus this winter — have been exceptional as well although it took them a while to get going.  As for the birds — terns and pelicans — I keep trying for the same shots of them, with wings flared wide as they brake to land on seaside bluffs, in the hope of getting a perfect image.  It will never happen because there is no perfect image, but it’s a lot of fun and good practice to keep trying. With 30 frames per second, it is simple to generate a series of well-focused images as the birds approach, each showing a slightly different arrangement of wings. head, eyes, primary feathers and background. Some of those images work, most don’t and get deleted instantly.  But occasionally the 30-fps approach leads to an image with what would otherwise be considered distracting elements in the foreground or background that by chance form an appealing composition, at least to me. I can’t quite put my finger on why I like these, but I do. Perhaps they communicate something about the larger scene, hinting at the crowdedness of the landing area or other things going on around the birds, or perhaps they simply balance the main subject with another anchor or a sense of tension.  Regardless, here are some of my favorite flight images that are more than just a bird frozen in time with its wings spread, many produced this season (since November).  Cheers, and thanks for looking!

About Phil Colla

I am a natural history photographer. I enjoy making compelling images in the ocean, on land, and in the air. I have maintained the Natural History Photography blog since 2005 and my searchable Natural History Photography Library since 1997. Here are some tear sheets and behind the scenes views. Thanks for looking!