Every day from the first of the year to the last, the sun comes up and then sets (assuming you’re not above the Arctic Circle). Sometimes clouds obscure this from us, but more often than not you can see it. It truly is a wonderful event to behold. If you haven’t watched a sunrise in a while, I encourage you to do so. Take someone who is special with you or go alone, but just take the time to watch. Today I watched it on one of my favorite places to watch it, the ocean shore. The light that comes when the sun rises is very special, but it is also very ephemeral. In a matter of seconds it changes dramatically. Today there was a special glow that illuminated this cockle on the sand. Nothing fancy about this shot, but the sunrise and the sand are simple things.
After the spectacular sunrise, I walked down Huntington Beach to the rocky jetty that is here. At this jetty there are lots of birds fishing in the inlet waters around the rocks. As with all jetties, the trick is to get low on the rocks. It takes a bit of time and care not to hurt yourself, but it is essential to getting a good angle on your subject. One of the winter visitors to the jetty was this Common Loon. With a bit of observation and practice you can predict where and when a loon will emerge from its dive. That’s what I did to get close for this photograph.
There were some other winter visitors to the jetty. These birds are typically birds that come down from Canada or the upper parts of the United States. In the summer, they live in freshwater habitats but adapt to marine life for the winter. There were a few Horned Grebes around. These birds are a little bit harder to get close to than the loons, but it is still possible with the right approach. These birds are gorgeous in their breeding plumage, but even their winter plumage is striking. Their bright red eyes give them a distinctive look.
I spent most of the day out on the jetty. The light changed a bit over the course of the day. One of the great things about December is that for most of the day, the light is good enough to photograph. As time passed and the tides changed, some different birds showed up. I got a great kick out of watching a group of Bonaparte’s Gulls that came in. They were flying atop the surface of the water and periodically landing or bending down to snatch food off the surface water. This one is coming off the water after having landed for a few seconds.
When the tides became unfavorable, I worked my way back down the shoreline for the afternoon hours. It is important to pay attention to the behavior of your wildlife subjects. Many times they are just standing there resting, but sometimes they are busy with something else. I noticed a Sanderling that was cleaning itself and preening. Birds usually preen for a little bit of time, so you have a chance to get into position. Here the Sanderling is rubbing its wing near the end of its preening.
The last bird I encountered on my walk back was a docile Great Blue Heron. Maybe the late sun was putting it at ease, but whatever the reason it wanted nothing more than to soak in the last rays of sunshine.
I love it when you get a great subject like this Great Blue Heron. If you get the time to work lots of different types of shots, you have to take advantage of it. After the sun went down, the heron was still hamming it up for me. Finally he walked a short way to the water. Even when the sun goes down, there are still lots of great photos left out there!