Studio Profile

CONTACT:  MABridgeImages@aol.com

While there isn't much we don't love to shoot, our studio specialty is capturing rare and beautiful images of birds in flight.  I call them rare because Birds in Flight are indisputably the most difficult subjects to shoot.

When you look through our galleries, particularly that of the Egrets, you will see flight forms that you have never seen before and will not find on another web site.

There is no simple way to capture birds in these forms.  It takes an artistic talent and hours and hours of patience, practice and pain that continues throughout each and every week.  There are more remarkable captures on our hard drives than we can ever show you, but stopping to process each one of them is not the way to prepare for the next cloudy day, high winds or wet skies, all of which are perfect for shooting birds in flight.Mary Ann Bridge Photo: Blaise Botti

 Could we ever truly teach this art?  I wouldn't be able to answer that other than to advise you to first ask yourself if you have an eye for quality, the pride of perfection, the steadiness to handhold and quickly maneuver eight to ten pounds of telephoto equipment, and the love and appreciation of every single moment you are in the field.  No matter what shot you loose or how simple the images you capture that day may be, as long as they reach into your soul and pull out a smile it was a Good shoot!

Every photographer knows that the more control we maintain over each shooting situation the easier it is to get quality exposures.  Shooting Birds In Flight allows you one constant - shutter speed.  If there is anything important in this art, it is speed, and, fortunately, that is something we can control.  Nothing else is constant; the variables remain just that and they can change within seconds.

Except for the professional photographer that uses a super telephoto lens on a tripod for a specialty shoot of a nest or a set, that being a pre-arranged situation baiting the arrival of a desired species of bird, such as a raptor going for a sacrificed kill at a particular location; except for those planned shoots involving nests, wetlands, captivity areas or other programmed shoots that can take advantage of the heavy, long lens on a tripod, the only way to shoot birds in flight is to handhold your camera.

Approach your area of shooting with expectation.  The shot is there.  The shot is always there.  A slow day can be as productive as a fast day.  Mystery and motion soar the skies, float over and under the waters, burst from the trees and disappear into the sun. Know this motion as a constant, then familiarize yourself with your camera in the same way that a soldier familiarizes himself with his rifle.

An Egret in Flight may start with bright sunlight highlighting its white feathers; in a second it may disappear into the shadows over your shoulder.  What happens as you pan on that bright white body from left to right or from the lake to over your head?  Which shot are you ready for?  Which shot do you want?  Are you satisfied with a bird flying in a straight line doing nothing, looking like every other bird you've ever seen photographed in flight?  What are your settings seconds later when the Egret is gone and a Great Blue Heron approaches from the side or directly across from you?  A Great Blue is comparatively dark in color.  Can you change your settings in time for a good exposure?  Do your fingers know what to do without taking your eyes off of the Bird In Flight?

Are both of your eyes open so as not to miss that pair of Mallards taking off to your left, just as your Great Blue Heron's flight comes to an end through the viewfinder?  Is your shutter speed fast enough for the wing tips of the Mallard or Widgeon in flight?  Is that a Gull or a Tern above you?  Can you determine the species by the motions of the wings so that you can give that Tern a bit faster shutter speed than the gull?  What about the jet black American Coot in full sunlight? They do occasionall fly as well as fight and run on water?  How do you meter a black bird in shadow; in light?  What if he is suddenly attacked by a white seagull; which do you meter?  Does it even matter without depth of field considered?

Depth of field!  When do you need it?  What are you going for in the shot?  Is it a Raptor with his fantastic contrasts in color that always respond to a good lens?  Or is it a fight about to ensue between Geese, Gulls, Coots, Egrets, or Herons?  Each species makes a different sound when agitated.  Will you be listening and ready to turn, knowing the ISO you will need to vary from your left versus your right side?  Can you switch to Aperture priority from Shutter priority and change your focal length to get a shot that covers two birds?  What if the Mallard or Widgeon is floating by and the water's reflection is absolutely magnificent?  If you're not sure, should you go for Program mode and loose depth-of-field, or are you comfortable using the all-powerful manual mode?  What has your experience told you to do in the short time you will have?  You need that experience, that failure, to know how to succeed.

Know the warning call of a Great Egret or a Great Blue Heron as it approaches in flight. It's the only way you will capture it. They are awesome when they arrive, and they are noisy.  They will announce their arrival and if you have not heard the call, the only thing you will have time to shoot is a bird sitting or walking around, having missed the flight and landing by not listening for their approach.

White balance, color correction? Do you really need to play with those things when the light is already workable?  If the light can only give you shadows and blue tones, have you read the manual on how to set the color balance and get remarkable shots no matter how low or difficult the light? It's pretty amazing what that camera can do for you.  Read the manual, bit by bit if you have to, but read it.  In any event, you won't understand it all until you experience it all.

Capturing birds in their most glorious flight form is what we love to do; what we've done. We've shot thousands and thousands of birds in flight.  The camera is always ready, no matter where we are or where we are going.  It sits programmed for speed and is within reach.  We shoot everything as if it were about to move.  Take a look at the shots of Model/ Actress, Leena Wolter.  I shot her in the same manner that I shoot birds In flight.  I handheld a 70-200 telephoto lens with a 1X7 teleconverter. I set my speed at 1/1250/sec.  I told her to move as if no one were around; I stood back, gave her distance and gave her freedom; she flew like only she could; beautiful, like a bird; awesome to shoot!

Most importantly, look at what we do with what we're given by nature.  Look at the Egrets and Herons in flight.  Pay attention to their twisting, turning bodies as they position to brake for landings.  Look at their feet and wings in those particular images.  Each and every capture of a landing differs in braking speeds based on wind variations, atmospheric subtleties, flight speed and potential midair collisions with other birds.

Notice the difference in the Great Egret's brilliant whites versus the strong deep hues of the Great Blue Heron.  They stand side-by-side; they fly in the same airspace, they present the same opportunity to the photographer at the same time.  Which do you choose to shoot and why?  And are you ready for your choice?

Only constant practice can allow you to make enough mistakes to get it right, to feel you are capable of keeping up with the speed of events that is happening in front of your lens. Take a few months off then go out and shoot again.  Notice the difference. You'll be lost.  Handholding is not for everyone.  It takes confidence and a decent camera. Plan on focusing on one bird for the day until you get your feet wet again.

But remember, there is always more than one bird when you are a photographer of Birds In Flight. On any given day, within two hours, there will be over a hundred opportunities for great exposures.  Can you get them all?  Never.  But those that you do manage to capture, the ones you've been hoping for, the Osprey in his dive twelve feet from where you are standing, the fat goose that appears out of nowhere and suddenly finds itself airborne almost landing at your feet, the flock of migrating Canadian Geese that are so beautiful that you just pray your ISO is high enough to capture their colors; those that you do capture are worth the effort and time you spent.

There are birds that everyone sees daily but never notice; only the photographer can reveal them.  There is remarkable, extraordinary detail allowed the photographer by something so simple as a Dove, or Pigeon, as its flight lands it just above your eyes; there are the Pelicans - can enough be written about their incredible beauty or their militaristic flock behavior when wild and migrating; or the Wildlife Victims - Pelicans at the very top of the list - battered, torn, cut and tortured bodies that you photograph from a distance, not realizing what you are capturing at the moment, only to find the carnage on your monitor later that evening - Pelicans, born and raised near fishing areas, the nemesis of fishermen and, therefore, constantly subjected to human cruelty and pollution each and every day.  What of the myriad ducks at the lakes?  I won't ruin the stories by telling you about them.  Shoot any of them for a few months and watch a story unfold.  And then there are the surprises, the whole genre called Seabirds.  So simple-looking that they are almost invisible walking along the banks, the jetties or near the surf.  Be quick enough and close enough to get a good capture of one of them in flight and you will be stunned at what is revealed by the open wings of a Tern in Flight or a Sandpiper as it lifts above the surf and becomes a bird in flight for some fortunate photographer.

Mary Ann Bridge

SPECIALTIES:

PORTRAITS - Individual only (Outdoor, natural lighting)
BIRDS IN FLIGHT - Rare Captures
URBAN LOS ANGELES - As it happens!
SPORTS - You defy physics - we'll shoot history
PHOTO TOUCHUP - Experts; Beyond the digital darkroom.
  (Client log-in access only)


What we do is document life.  Anything out of the ordinary is cause for a capture.  Moving in or out of sync with nature ....capture!  Falling within the bounds of nature .... mandatory capture!  Mundane static objects touched by light and shadow .... art waiting to be discovered!

Motion is art; fear is art; anger, pride, beauty, taste in dress or body language .... all art.  We see it, we shoot it!  Everything changes a second after the photograph is taken.  Every shot is unique, personal, timeless.  Seconds fly ..... we fly faster. We listen to the siren's wail, follow the flashing lights, search the skies, look into your eyes, lift everything higher - we're waiting even before we show up.