Choosing the moment

Quite a lot is said these days about choosing the moment in photography. Generally I can see how this works – until – that is – I go to Snettisham to photograph the birds.

As the tide approaches and the sun goes down the Dunlins, Knots and to a certain extent the Oyster Catchers go through their paces. Murmurations (that’s the word I am looking for)  Hundreds of birds swoop up into the sky to form shapes and patterns . But when is the best moment to take the shot?

You never know if I is going to be a spectacular swoop or if they going to fly across the bay only a few feet  above the water. Should I press the shutter or not? It is not possible to predict how spectacular the formation will be. So I take the picture anyway and invariably find that the best display comes when the camera and its operator are recovering.

Next a group of Oyster Catchers, who want to get in on the act fly overhead. They are delightful birds but I find their nervous motions quite unpredictable.

One phenomenon  which I have never noticed before and sadly one which cannot adequately be shown on still photographs, is the way in which some of the birds in flight catch the sunlight and others don’t. There is a sort of shimmering moving light among the birds, which to the naked eye looks magical or mysterious. It is quite an eerie sensation as the constantly moving birds reflect light from the sun.

As dusk increases the birds continue their display – against the reddening  sun – this is the moment we have been waiting for.

Then all too soon the tide is in – the waders make their way to the shore and the show is over for another night. Dozens of weary bird watchers and finger-sore photographers reluctantly pack up their gear. Perhaps the birds will fly one more time.

Sadly not – the moment has passed.