I returned to Bolsa Chica to practice focusing on birds in flight, but a little bit of carelessness cost me a lot of sharpness. This was the sharpest image of the day, and it falls short of the lens's potential.
When a bit of work brought me back to Orange County this week, I decided to revisit the Bolsa Chica Preserve to see if I could get better images of birds in flight by choosing the D300’s Auto-Area focusing mode. I got many opportunities, but very few sharp images. I cannot say whether the focusing mode fell short. Unfortunately, I had not controlled for all the variables – particularly my own carelessness. Last week I put a circular polarizer on my 70-200 lens while photographing cars in San Francisco. The polarizer was still on the lens, affecting both focus speed and shutter speeds. I didn’t notice until I was packing my gear at the end of the day!
The slower shutter speed helps this image, but the sharpness in the Reddish Egret's head is just a lucky break. I don't mind a happy accident now and then, but I cannot understand why I didn't question the unusually low shutter speeds on a bright, beautiful day.
I'm not sure if the accidental polarizer helped tone down the highlights on this egret, but based on the angle of the sun, I doubt it. A polarizer works best when the light is coming from a 90-degree angle. I'm guessing it worked more like a neutral-density filter.