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Reader photo: The golden light of the setting sun illuminates a waterbird spectacle

Brown Pelicans, Heermann’s Gulls, and Western Gulls, Santa Cruz, California, November 10, 2013, 4:54 p.m. by Rainey Shuler

The Santa Cruz Harbor is a man-made inlet on Monterey Bay on the coast of central California. A 60-foot-tall lighthouse stands at the entrance.

Rainey Shuler
Rainey Shuler

Each evening last fall, hundreds of Brown Pelicans, gulls, and other birds flew in to feed on anchovies, and Rainey Shuler photographed the spectacle. She stopped often after work and, over the course of a month, shot at least 4,000 photos.

Shuler works as a data analyst in Santa Cruz. She started birdwatching when she was 11 years old but got sidetracked. Six years ago, she picked up her camera, began photographing birds, and hasn’t looked back. When she retires, she plans to hit the road in search of birds.

In the late afternoon on November 10, the scene was especially chaotic. Shuler took the photo above just before 5 p.m. and later posted it to the BirdWatching Magazine group on the photo-sharing website Flickr.

She climbed onto large rocks to get close and focused her lens on a group of pelicans and gulls. “I saw the light from the setting sun shining on parts of the wings,” she says, “and hoped to capture a portion of the mass of birds and the feeling of frenzy that was happening in that golden light.”

Shuler used the following equipment and settings to take the photograph:

Camera: Canon 60D
Lens: Canon 100-400mm L lens
Settings: 1/1000s, f/8 at 400mm
Light: Natural
Format: JPG
Adjustments: Exposure, contrast, and a bit of sharpening.

A version of this article appeared in the February 2014 issue of BirdWatching magazine.

Originally Published