Hi Luca and Diane,
The lake I visit is in Encino, along the L.A. river, basically the Sepulveda Basin, very close to the 101 & 405 fwys. If the freeways are open it takes me ten minutes to get there, and other times, considerably longer.
I couldn't make it there today, my son dislocated his shoulder yesterday, and had a couple of medical appointments today. A few days ago when I shot the egrets fighting out on the lake surface it inspired me to try something different yesterday. Instead of positioning myself tight to the edge of the water, I stood back a ways, with the sun at my back, waiting for egrets to fly by between two trees, along the water’s edge. When an egret landed along the edge I slowly moved into position behind it, waiting for another egret to come in for a fight. The birds never stop annoying each other and constantly assert their presence. Luckily the light was unusually sweet yesterday and I captured many dozens of nice images. I hope to go back very soon, possibly tomorrow morning for a couple of hours, and I’ll stand back again hoping for some action shots. I do find that shooting at the water’s edge, with birds flying over water, allows the sun to reflect light up from below, which can brighten the underbody and wings.
Now that I think about it..... Yesterday evening I visited the lake at sunset, not many birds around, and I spent quite a bit of time talking to a few other photographers. It was the first time I had seen more than three photographers at the lake at the same time. I was handholding my D300 and 300 f/4, the other three guys were shooting a D3 with a 500VR, Canon with a 500, and a Nikon D700 with a 400 /2.8 I feel much more nimble and quick shooting un-tethered to a tripod, the other guys were using center-weighted metering, auto ISO, shutter priority, and focus using the focus button on the back of the camera, instead of the shutter release. I shoot matrix metering, aperture priority, manual ISO, and I focus with the shutter release because it allows my thumb to constantly dial in EV adjustments on the rear command dial. I like to be in full control of the camera, and if the whites are blown out, I can only blame myself. I feel like I'm still getting warmed up for the local birding season, and finally my fingers are doing their thing without my having to think about it. Bright sun, white bird, adjust EV dial to admit less light, either 1/3 or 2/3. I have a friend who also uses the rear command dial on his Nikon the same way I do, but, with center weighted metering, the adjustments are the opposite of those needed for matrix metering. The center-weighted metering wants to make the white bird gray. But, the guy shooting the D700 last night said he achieved perfect exposures with center weighted without ever adjusting EV. I think I'll just keep doing what I've become accustomed to and it's nice to know that camera technology these days allows for people to acquire nice images with different schemes that they find most suitable, comfortable and effective.
About helpful tips, I could use a few, especially with respect to how to go about submitting images to magazines. I have never had any of my bird photographs in magazines before and wonder if the best way is to write an article to accompany the images. Perhaps a simple photo essay, or a basic how to article, or, interesting info about the birds habits and behavior? I guess it depends on the type of magazine. I don't feel expert enough to do an article about anything photographic, since I've only been shooting SLR for just over two years, and I'm constantly reading photography how-to books. I can say that photography has become a driving passion in my life for the past couple of years, and I wish I had discovered this joy years ago. I have had a few fly fishing photos in magazines, including cover shots, but the editors found me and emailed a request. I have been assuming the best means of generating income is selling large prints to interior designers who cater to the up-scale SoCal market. Like everything, that can be hit and miss, great one month and slow the next. I have also been shooting corporate headshots to help pay the bills, and it can pay very well, is also hit and miss, and my heart would be much better served if I can shoot birds and other wild things rather than people. For now I’ll shoot anything, well, almost. I hear the birds calling me!!!