Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Two gulls at Niagara Falls on July 25th

with 30 comments

I took the first picture from the Canadian side in the morning and the second from the American side near sundown, each time with the lens zoomed to its maximum focal length of 400mm. Both birds spoke to me. Take that figuratively and you’re all right; believe it literally and you’re gullible.

© 2019 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

October 8, 2019 at 4:44 PM

30 Responses

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  1. The first is great with such strong contrast. Is the second on some poor guy’s balding head?

    Steve Gingold

    October 8, 2019 at 5:14 PM

    • You’ve got a good imagination when it comes to the balding head.

      In the first picture, the white gull was so bright in the sun that when I processed the image I had to lower Photoshop’s exposure slider, and that in turn made the background appear darker than it actually was. The full-size original looks better than what you see here: the reduction in size, followed by conversion to jpg, followed by whatever WordPress does to images, noticeably lowered the quality. The image in this post was my third attempt at an acceptable jpg.

      Steve Schwartzman

      October 8, 2019 at 6:05 PM

      • If this is of lesser quality I’d be impressed even more with the full sized one. The gull stands out so well against the shadowed background.
        As a fairly balding guy myself, the imagination wasn’t terribly challenged.

        Steve Gingold

        October 8, 2019 at 6:13 PM

        • The original has better tonality and of course more detail.
          We’ll have to see if we can challenge your imagination about something else.

          Steve Schwartzman

          October 8, 2019 at 6:49 PM

    • That sphere is interesting. To my imagination it’s like an onion with the outermost skins already removed 🙂

      Ms. Liz

      October 9, 2019 at 1:33 AM

  2. Gulls are like some TV “personalities” — they seem sleek and lovely, until they start speaking

    Robert Parker

    October 8, 2019 at 5:32 PM

    • Well analyzed. From what I’ve read, some silent-movie stars fell out of fashion once “talkies” let people hear them speak. In fact that was the premise of the 1952 movie “Singing in the Rain.”

      Steve Schwartzman

      October 8, 2019 at 6:08 PM

  3. Ha!


    October 8, 2019 at 6:03 PM

  4. Super job with your powerful lens, Steve!

    Peter Klopp

    October 8, 2019 at 7:33 PM

    • 400mm is pretty good for most things where I need extra reach. Birders use even longer lenses: one I was with on Sunday had the equivalent of a 960mm lens.

      Steve Schwartzman

      October 8, 2019 at 8:15 PM

  5. I’ve noticed something with dark photos like the first one that I’ve never questioned, even though it’s intrigued me for a while. The longer I looked at the first photo, the more the details began to emerge. At first, the background appeared pure black and featureless. Then, in time, the trees, the patterns in the rock, the other foliage — even details of the bird, such as its eye and beak — began to emerge.

    It’s not unlike walking into a dark room and having to wait for my eyes to adjust. Does the same thing happen with images like this? Have you ever come across anyone writing about the effect?

    When I saw the second photo I thought, “Well, he’s not sitting on top of the world, but standing’s ok, too.”


    October 8, 2019 at 8:53 PM

    • Don’t know that I can be a fair assessor here, given that I was present at the scene in broad daylight and have seen the unadjusted RAW file, both of which revealed plenty of details that got obscured in processing the image to control for the gull’s brightness. Artistically, I prefer the chiaroscuro rendering to a true-to-life one. In any case, I appreciate how the bright/dark version might gradually reveal details in the shadows the longer you looked at the image. I’ve not heard of anyone writing about the effect, which as you point out is similar to the way our eyes gradually adjust in a dark room. If nobody has studied this, it’s an opportunity for someone to do controlled experiments—perhaps by having different people look at dark images for different amounts of time and then asking them what they saw. If subjects who got to look longer reported more things on average, that would show the value of a greater time spent observing.

      Steve Schwartzman

      October 8, 2019 at 9:15 PM

  6. What I want to know is, did the bottom one turn slowly, and go step-by-step?

    Michael Scandling

    October 8, 2019 at 11:07 PM

  7. Both images are beautiful in their own different way. Gorgeous, albeit so different, light in both.

    Otto von Münchow

    October 9, 2019 at 8:53 AM

  8. Otto said it. 🙂 Very nice, and I like the idea of photographing one from each side.


    October 14, 2019 at 6:36 PM

    • I hadn’t thought about the differing sides till you pointed that out. It wasn’t intentional: that’s how the birds came to me, and I couldn’t have changed orientations even if I’d wanted to.

      Steve Schwartzman

      October 14, 2019 at 7:57 PM

  9. […] reminded now of another globe lamp I photographed near sundown five months […]

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