I returned to Lakeland in the last week of March with the Beast. My last set of American White Pelican head shots didn’t quite give me the smooth bokeh that I wanted, and I knew a longer focal length and f/4 lens would help. Plus the birds were starting to come into their breeding plumage on my previous visit, and who can resist a bright orange pouch?
I arrived in Lakeland just as the sun was rising. But instead of the flock of 50-ish American White Pelicans, there were two of them sitting on their favorite wall. Migration time had come and gone! But having fewer subjects was actually a good thing for head shots. It’s a lot easier to isolate the birds when they are not all preening in the same small space.
Two more birds flew in, including this pelican with a gorgeous orange/red pouch that he was very happy to show off for me. The bump on his beak is also part of his breeding plumage, along with red marks around his eye.
After landing, this bird swam through my favorite part of the lake with the magical morning light and reflections. The water glowed with the same colors as the pelican’s pouch.
He swan straight towards me, then hopped up on his favorite wall. With so few pelicans, he was easy to isolate. I ended up experimenting with both the 1.4x and 2x teleconverters as I watched him preen. With the Beast mounted on the tripod, it was easier to control my backgrounds. It was all about finding the right angles for both the background and the bird.
Would you believe that these were all taken from the same spot on the side of the lake? You can vary the background significantly by just scooting over a few inches. I liked the dramatic black background when the bird opened his beak, and I also liked the traditional pale blue lake background, especially when the sun illuminated the bird.
With the beautiful light and beautiful birds, an hour passed quickly. Between the Wood Ducks and the pelicans, I almost filled my card that morning! Two of the birds finished preening and flew off. But one of the best backgrounds was yet to come. As the sun filtered through the cypress trees, it illuminated the bird and gave a pale pastel background from the water.
This was one of my best mornings at Lake Morton. I said goodbye to the pelicans, wishing them a good migration and breeding season up north. They’ll come back next winter, and I’m already looking forward to more quality time with the Beast!
Want to learn more about nature photography at Lake Morton?
Check out my Lake Morton page with more information about the location, map, website, photography tips, etc. It is archived by date so you can see my images from previous visits. Maybe you'll be inspired for your own trip!
Planning a trip to Florida? Don't miss my Central Florida Bird Photography Locations reference guide!