The birds and the beasts

Liv­ing in Florida, Daniel Moll is sur­rounded by hun­dreds of species of ex­otic birds, and plenty of land-based wildlife too

NPhoto - - Over To You… -

Grow­ing up in Penn­syl­va­nia, I started learn­ing the art of pho­tog­ra­phy from my fa­ther us­ing a Nikon N6006 film cam­era. It was in­stilled in me early on to use man­ual mode to help me be more creative with my pho­tog­ra­phy, and although the new Nikon bod­ies take great pic­tures in auto and pro­gram mode, I still shoot in man­ual mode 99 per cent of the time. To be a good pho­tog­ra­pher you need to learn ev­ery­thing you can about your equip­ment, and you never stop ben­e­fit­ting from the in­put of oth­ers.

I moved to St Au­gus­tine in Florida four years ago, and I’ve been inspired to get out and cap­ture the myr­iad pho­to­graphic op­por­tu­ni­ties in my new en­vi­ron­ment. Lo­cated in the his­toric district of Amer­ica’s old­est city, we are sur­rounded by abun­dant wildlife, forts, land­scapes, beau­ti­ful beaches, and – my per­sonal favourites – birds. Florida has hun­dreds of na­tive species of birds, rang­ing from small sand­pipers to the ma­jes­tic bald ea­gle, to which you can add the many species that mi­grate from the north to our state, where the weather is so much warmer.

My port­fo­lio in­cludes a big va­ri­ety of sub­jects, but tak­ing pic­tures of birds is my pas­sion.

It’s al­ways a huge thrill to see the baby ospreys grow­ing, learn­ing how to fly and pre­par­ing to ven­ture out on their own

Although there are plenty of species to choose from, the ma­jor­ity of my time is spent cap­tur­ing the osprey [3], a bird of abun­dant grace and char­ac­ter. I’m cap­ti­vated by the beauty of these birds as they gather for their daily fish­ing ex­pe­di­tion, and about three hours be­fore low tide I love to watch them hov­er­ing over an in­let close to where I live, wait­ing for the per­fect fish to hunt. They start their dive with their talons fully ex­tended, be­fore plung­ing deep into the wa­ter to catch their prey, and it can be com­i­cal to watch them fly away haul­ing fish al­most as big as they are!

Mid-flight fights

I visit nu­mer­ous nests to ob­serve and pho­to­graph the adults re­turn­ing with the catch of the day to feed their chicks. It’s al­ways a huge thrill to see the ba­bies grow­ing, learn­ing how to fly and pre­par­ing to ven­ture out on their own. Sev­eral times I’ve mar­velled as an ea­gle has at­tacked an osprey in mid-flight to steal its fish; when this hap­pens, the osprey just goes back and catches another one.

Given the abun­dance of other wildlife in this area, I’ll also oc­ca­sion­ally pho­to­graph deer, wild pigs, al­li­ga­tors, man­a­tee and bob­cats, to men­tion just a few – I love be­ing sur­rounded by the sound of al­li­ga­tors bel­low­ing early in the morn­ing.

I’ve al­ways shot with Nikon equip­ment. My first dig­i­tal cam­era was a Nikon D70 and I’ve gone through a cou­ple of other mod­els, work­ing up to what I mainly use today, the D300 and the D7000. Most of my shots are taken with my Nikon 300mm f/4, but I’ll also use my 70-300mm, 55-200mm and 18-55mm Nikon lenses.

St. Au­gus­tine has been voted one of the top 10 lo­ca­tions in the world for pho­tog­ra­phy, and while I can’t speak for any­one else, I can def­i­nitely say it’s be­come num­ber one on my list. It’s a bird-lover’s par­adise, and a pho­tog­ra­pher’s par­adise too!

01 Pel­i­can Cross­ing Nikon D300, Nikon AF 300mm f/4, 1/1600 sec, f/7.1, ISO200 get £50 for ev­ery photo story we pub­lish!

03 Retu rn­ing home Nikon D300, Nikon AF 300mm f/4, 1/1600 sec, f/5, ISO250

02 BRANCH LINE Nikon D300, Nikon AF 300mm f/4, 1/1600 sec, f/8, ISO400

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