Cormorant in the harbour

For a while now, I had the goal of finally photographing the Cormorant. Especially in winter they are quite common here in Switzerland. Since the turn of the millennium the Cormorant has also been one of the breeding birds of Switzerland. But despite the strong increase in population I have not had any luck with this species. At least until recently…

As the feathers of the Cormorant aren’t waterproof, after a couple of dives, they have to dry their plumage. For this, the Cormorants like to sit on poles where they spread their wings. Especially in winter the Cormorant can be seen very often in the harbour. But mostly, the rather shy bird chooses poles which are not accessible for humans and far out in the water.

For taking pictures, the Cormorants in the harbour are often just too far away. Because you can’t get so close to the birds, you then have the pole in the picture. Also, the background becomes less blurred by the distance. This has the consequence that the background distracts from the bird and the picture looks less natural. So, to take an interesting photo of the Cormorant, I had to get as close as possible to the bird. But how do you get so close to a shy bird, especially when it usually sits far out in the water on high poles?

Fortunately, the latter is not always the case. In the last few years, I noticed a pole in the local harbour, which was quite close to the shore and still was sometimes visited by Cormorants.

The problem was, however, that the Cormorants were very shy and were already changing to other poles at long distances. A hide would not have been worthwhile itself as the post was used to0 little and it was located in the middle of the sometimes pretty crowded harbour area.

So, the only thing I could do was try, try and try...

In 95% of the cases when I went to take pictures in the harbour area, the pole was not occupied at all. Fortunately, Cormorants are not the only species that spend the winter in the harbour. So instead of Cormorants I mostly took pictures of ducks. These include the Red-crested Pochard, the Pochard or the Tufted Duck. If the pole was occupied for once, the Cormorants usually flew away very quickly.

When I drove past the pole on this cloudy day, the pole was for once occupied. My hopes that I could finally take my long-awaited photo of the Cormorant rose significantly, when I could see that it was a juvenile Cormorant.  Young birds are usually a bit more fearless and inexperienced. They tend to be a little less afraid of humans than adult birds.

As a matter of fact, the Cormorant did not seem to bother me at all. Only now and then did the bird give me a glimpse. Then he devoted himself again to the feather care.

After a good 20 minutes, I was facing the Cormorant and we were only a few meters apart. Only a short gap between the harbour wall and the posts separated us. Because I was not hidden under a camouflage tent, I could move in such a way that I got a nice background.

I decided to sit down slowly so that I got a far away mountain in the background. This mountain was very dark under the light conditions, and I had the idea for a low key image, in which only the details of the Cormorant would stand out.

Beside the exposure settings I also experimented with different compositions. I decided quite fast for a vertical composition. In my eyes this simply worked better in this situation.

On the computer I finished my vision. In Lightroom I made some basic adjustments. For example, I cropped the picture a little bit. In Photoshop I drastically darkened the background again.

I like the picture very much. The dark background fits the Cormorant very well. A brighter background would only distract from the Cormorant and the beautiful feather details would be lost. I also like the composition of the picture very much as it leaves a lot of space for the bird and still doesn't take up much of the picture.

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Nicolas Stettler

Weyernweg 27

2560 Nidau

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16.8.2022

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