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Page 2 by Tim Kuhn

Written By onci on Thursday, February 11, 2010 | 10:35 AM

Brown Pelicans in La Jolla by Tim Kuhn

La Jolla, in San Diego California, provides one of the best places to photograph Brown Pelicans in their breeding plumage. La Jolla is an upscale community perched on a hillside overlooking the Pacific. There are many high fashion shops and upscale restaurants in the downtown area. Having a nice meal after your shoot is a grand way to end the day!

In order to catch this action, head on down there in January and into February, that is when the Pelicans are in their beautiful breeding plumage. The best time of day to observe and photograph these birds is about a half an hour after sunrise when the sun starts to hit the rocks the birds are perched on until noon or so. The sun will be to your back with the Pacific in front of you and as a back drop for you images. It doesn’t get any better than this! One of the better spots to find these guys are the northern end of the cliffs, there is a shop there called the La Jolla Cave Shop. Directly west of the shop is a point of land that usually has pelicans on it. This is one of the best places to shoot from, other spots are a short walk to the south, you can’t miss them.

Just watching these guys is enough fun, but photographing them is even more fun. The gear to bring is pretty wide open. What do you want to shoot? If it’s portraits, then a longer lens, 400 – 500 is plenty. If in flight and landing shots are your fancy a zoom would be best. I found the last time I was there that 400 was a bit too long for where I was standing. It was a good length to catch them coming in but as soon as they spread those big wings for landing I was clipping wings and feet. I do think a 100-400 would be ideal. I have in the past shot them with a 300 prime that did a great job on the wing spreads.

One could also work some landscape type shots in with some pelicans in the foreground, for that, bring a wide angle. The variety of types of shooting really is wide open, that’s one of the things that make shooting there so much fun. It always seems there is something to shoot! These guys are sleeping, preening, flapping or engaging in movements called “neck throws” where they stretch the necks as far back as possible, displaying the beautiful red color of their pouch. For these shots zooms are handy or a prime if you are far enough back from them and are anticipating the action. It is amazing how tall they can be doing a neck throw!

Of course pelicans aren’t the only birds that inhabit the bluffs overlooking the water. There is a large population of cormorants, both double crested and pelagic. These guys nest in the cliffs immediately to the north of the cove. They also share the same rocks as the pelicans offering a different photographic subject. Numerous species of gulls can be seen on any given day. All along the beaches there are sea lions resting on the rocks or sleeping in the sand. Always give them plenty of room, don’t crowd them when taking their pictures. Keep an eye out over the water; you may see a whale or pod of dolphins.

It is easy to forget about the other people that are there enjoying the cove in their own way while you are involved with your photography. It would behoove on to keep an eye on your gear and keep it out of their way. The last you want is that 500 of yours getting knocked over and sent rolling down the sidewalk! I don’t know of anybody that has had their gear stolen there but it is something to keep in mind. It is all too easy to be glued to the viewfinder and lose track of what is going on around you.

If you do choose to go I hope you have fun and bring back many fine photographs and great memories.

Tim Kuhn
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