While I was on Midway Atoll I was informed by members of the US Fish and Wildlife that there were an estimated one million albatrosses on the atoll. Yet out of the rabble of birds, one particular individual stood out to me.
As you go around Midway Atoll, you are never far from a “national geographic moment”. You could almost just blindly point and shoot your camera in any direction and you would still capture some crazy interesting photos of the exotic wildlife or the amazing scenery around the islands. Nevertheless, I wanted to find something more unique than what the rest of my team had already shot.
Albatrosses seemed like pretty romantic birds. They always seemed to be dancing and courting each other. It was quite amusing. The birds would often start by clapping their beaks super fast, then they would kiss/sword-fight with their beaks.
While one would stretch its neck, so as to make itself as tall as possible, the other would sniff its armpits…
Then they would clap their beaks some more and both stare at the clouds. It was a ton of fun watching these gooney birds flirt with each other. However, everyone who came here got to see this behavior. I needed to find something more unusual.
I had long heard that shooting during sunset could produce some very dramatic coloration on your subject, so I thought I would give it a try. The effect was completely justified by the names I had heard it called such as magic hour or golden hour. I though with the proper angle, I could really get these little chick’s feather to glow. Of course I still need to work on my technique, but I though this style of photography really helped my subjects to stand our from their background. The setting sun seemed naturally highlight whatever I shot.
One of the coolest things about these remote islands is that the fauna does not associate humans with danger. If you gave these inquisitive birds the time to waddle up to you, they would totally come check you out (sometimes trying to steal your lens cap or other camera gear…).
Although not all of the adults were protective of their chicks, every once in a while you would find a momma that would remind you when you got to close to her baby.
As I was shooting a few albatross chicks, this adult snuck up behind me and started trying to pull me away from the younglings. How could I not comply to such a gentle request from this beauty. Sometimes you just need to give them their space and remember that these are wild animals, not just photo subjects.
My exploration eventually led me to cross paths with the most gorgeous “white chick” I had seen since I got on the island. This youngster immediately captured my heart. Once I found it, I would ride by on my bike everyday to just to check up on it.
I was curious if being so uniquely different from all the other chicks on the island would cause it to get treated differently by its congeners. Despite its distinction though, I never noticed any of the other albatrosses behaving any differently with it from the rest o the chicks. I wanted to call it an albino, but it did not have red eyes or a white beak. Perhaps it was expressing a different genetic mutation from albinism.
As the sun began setting, I thought that this white albatross could be my most interesting backlit golden hour photo subject. So I picked a reasonable distance from it to rest my camera and fiddling with my camera’s settings.
This was my final product. The settings for this shot were 40mm, f/5.6, ISO 400, with a shutter speed of 1/500. I shot the image in RAW as I knew the bright sun would wash out most of the colors. I also had to make sure to not overexpose the sky. I know other photographers could have gotten a million better shots than me with this subject and setting, but consider this my one in a million.