This photo of a royal spoonbill (Platalea regia) is one of several I was pleased to make one evening at Miranda, Firth of Thames (you can see more spoonbill photos here). I hadn’t given spoonbills much thought when I went to this internationally significant wetland that day. I was hoping for one of a couple of rarities that had been sighted recently in the area. But, one of the things I love about Miranda, and why I have been there so many times, is that it always seems to present new subjects and opportunities.
Although royal spoonbills can be viewed at close quarters in some parts of New Zealand, I’ve always found them to be rather timid in most parts of the upper North Island where I most often meet them. On this occasion a small flock that had been feeding well out of range on an incoming tide flew cooperatively toward me as the evening light began to mature. Using a low bank and tall grass for cover, I was able to quickly move so the actively feeding birds were within range of my lens. As the sun neared the horizon I focused my attention on one spoonbill as it worked intently around a small mangrove seeding, feeling with its sensitive bill for crabs and other prey that might shelter there. A small crab was sieved from the murky water and unceremoniously swallowed. The spoonbill then used its odd looking bill to delicately comb each leaf of the plant, presumably gleaning small invertebrates. I was surprised by the dexterity it displayed, and pleased to come away with what I think is a nice composition. Notice the bird is off-center. Putting the subject smack in the middle of the frame is a mistake many beginners make. Doing so can create a static image that fails to capture attention, or an awkward tension that just doesn’t sit well. Putting space in front of the subject suggests room for to move to and crates a more dynamic composition. Of course, like all ‘rules’ in photography there are times to break this one, but if you don’t know why, it’s generally not a good idea.