The state of WA has several locations in the north west where birds migrate in winter. When it becomes too cold in Canada, Alaska and Siberia, birds fly down to WA to hang around for three of four months starting end of November. Snow geese is the most populous one in this region. They come in flocks of tens of thousands and stay in Skagit valley from November till February or even March if it is still not warm enough. If you want to see a flock of Snow Geese, take exit 221 from I-5, and drive west on Fir island road, if you are driving up from Seattle. Then, go west (left from Fir Island road) on Rawlins road. You will hit dead end and you can see water from that point. Snow geese sleep on back waters near Fir Island in the night. If you reach there an hour before the sunrise, you can hear the noise of birds from the water. They take off from water during sunrise and fly out of water, and land in some farm land nearby looking for feeding. The taking off and landing of flocks of Snow geese is an interesting scene to watch. The flock in this picture was shot on Fir Island road, just 2 miles west of I-5. There several other kind of birds migrate to this area too.
I mostly used a 70-200 mm lens to photograph Snow geese. You may not be able to get close to a flock that is feeding on a farm, so this focal length is good enough. If you watch the taking off of Geese during the sunrise, a wide angle lens will help to get wide landscape shots with birds and sunrise in the frame. A shutter speed of 1/1250 second was used so that I could get sharp picture of birds that are in flight. An aperture of F8 helped getting enough depth of field, so more of the frame is sharp. I struggled to get the correct white balance in this image. I generally use one of the white balance presets in the camera menu, like cloudy, direct sun, shade, tungsten etc. This image was shot in auto white balance mode and the color temperature was 6350 Kelvin in the image, and that looked more warm for me. So I reduced the color temperature during post processing until I got the correct colors in the image, at 4440 Kelvin. I remember, the grass was green, and birds have red skin on their legs, and the feather was white. So, I reduced the color temperature slowly until I felt I got the colors that I saw in the scene. This is one of the best advantages of shooting in RAW format, you can adjust the white balance, the RAW file contains maximum amount of dynamic range. I use a simple rule when adjusting the white balance by adjusting the color temperature - white should be white and Red, Green & Blue should look Red, Green and Blue. This is a rule that can be used as a baseline, but if you are editing an image of scenes like Sunset or Sunrise, it is a different story. I want to have warmer colors in the sunset scene, so I adjust the white balance accordingly, I will talk more about it when I post a Sunset shot, another time.
Exposure : 70 mm, ISO 800, 1/1250 second, F8
Link to the photo gallery : http://www.muraleephotos.com/p875727094
Telephoto lens for Snow geese, white balance , high shutter speed for birds in flight.