Friday, June 1, 2012

Rufous-naped Lark

(Mirafra africana)
South Africa

Observing Rufous-naped Lark during the display will provide you with valuable knowledge that can be applied to ensure outstanding images of these magnificent birds, pause for a few moments and observe the display as it unfolds right before you, you will soon notice the display characteristics.

During the display the male Lark lifts itself a few inches above the perch with rapped wing movement, but I have also noticed that the Larks may clutch onto the perch with one or both claws to provide the required stability. The display of the Rufous-naped Lark will provide you with ample opportunity to exploit the wonders of nature and capture excellent images. Timing is crucial - and you have to carefully observe the subject to find its rhythm.

You have to ensure the correct technical and artistic requirements are met, nature only proves us with the opportunity. (Light, Perch, Background, Head position and Technical) Always pay attention to the background in order to ensure the best background to enhance the subject. Choose your subject carefully, keeping in mind the Perch, light direction (catch light) and background. With subjects like the Rufous-naped Lark it's so easy to ensure visible catch-lights in the eye, this will truly add to the success of the image (I don't say that every image must have catch-lights in the eyes).

With shutter speeds in excess of 1/1600s you will be able to freeze motion (wings and body), during the Rufous-naped Lark display you might decide to use slower shutter speeds to provide a different image by adding a sense of wing motion.

Remember the larks head in the display change in the vertical position only (relatively slow, compare to the wing movement) and in most cases the head will also stay on the same focal plane, the only motion will be vertical. The wings on the other hand change with the vertical motion of the entire subject as well as the rapid movement of the wings, and at slow shutter speeds this will cause the head to be sharp and wings blurred.

The display is followed by a vocal and grooming session. During this session the lark is stationary on the perch singing, moving his head in different directions. This will provide you with the opportunity to create outstanding portrait images with an open bill or grooming sessions, followed by another display and the process will repeat itself.

In Rietvlei Nature Reserve the display occurs mostly during the early parts of the morning, but on overcast day's I found that Rufous-naped Lark tend to prolong the display. (Display only observed during the breading season - October to January)

I found the Rufous-naped Lark to be relatively tolerant to vehicles and most of the time you will be able to get within a few meters of your subject.

Spending time observing the behavior of these magnificent creatures will truly be an enriching experience, and to me this is what wildlife photography is all about learning and observing the animals in their natural environment, and sharing the experiance.

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