Marabou Storks – Photographing Slow Birds With A Fast Shutter Speed

by John Downey


Unlike many brilliantly-colored fowl in Ethiopia, Marabou Storks would be better suited to cover Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau in Grumpy Old Men Six. These large birds have wingspans that reach over two meters and the bills are more than a foot long.  They’re slow, awkward and odd.  However, they move so best insurance to get tack-sharp action is to bump up the shutter speed.  How much?  Depends on how fast the subject is moving and what results the photographer wants to achieve.  For these shots, I anticipated a catch, splashing water droplets and a thrashing baitfish doomed to being swallowed whole. 1/2500 at f6.3, a very shallow depth of field with a 200mm lens, so the focus needed to be spot on.

Can’t bump up the shutter speed high enough because there’s not enough light?  Increase the ISO.  Most modern cameras have sensors that will allow for up to ISO 2000 with little to no noise.  Here, I used ISO 640.  Though these might appear to be a sequence of images, it took this sorry-excuse-for-a-fisherman more than 30 minutes to get an ounce of Starkist.

Not enough for an appetizer.

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