Photo From: Joe Reynolds
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Description: SACRAMENTO — For wildlife photographers, shooting a bird in flight poses a test of skill, but many will agree that perfectly capturing a diving brown pelican is not only a matter of skill, but of patience and a bit of luck as well. Hal Beral, from Newport Beach, demonstrated that skill and luck were on his side as he seized the coveted "Photograph of the Year" in Outdoor California Magazine''s 2000 Photography Award Program.
Using more than 100 rolls of film, Beral spent 20 hours over one month at the Department of Fish and Game''s (DFG) Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve in Huntington Beach, where he does most of his bird photography.
To capture the eventual winning shot, Beral would arrive an hour to 90 minutes after sunrise at Bolsa Chica during the winter when the brown pelican is in its breeding plumage. Lighting was a significant factor with the pelican. Brown pelicans have dark and light features that require careful consideration in order to catch all of the detail. Photographers shooting later in the day either need to underexpose the whites to get the details in the dark areas or sacrifice the details to get the whites. The soft light of early morning allowed Beral to get the best of both.
"The soft light at that time of the morning gives the best exposure," said Beral, who noted that early morning also gave him the best opportunity for undisturbed shooting. "Because Bolsa Chica is a multi-use facility, and while pelicans are not really wary birds, photography gets more difficult later in the day."
Beral used a Cannon AZE camera with a 400 mm, 5.6 lens and Fuji Provia 100F film.
"It''s [the Cannon] got an incredibly fast auto focus," said Beral. "You really need to have that, and even then, half the time you miss the shot."
Beral, whose first love is underwater photography, has been shooting photos for 20 years. When he found he could not spend all of his time underwater, he developed a new interest that was closer to his home - bird photography. Though he still does underwater photography and works in real estate during the day, Beral found that bird photography allowed him to continue his pursuit of photography professionally around his workday.
Beral has been a dedicated competitor in Outdoor California''s Photography Award Program for the past four years, regularly earning seconds, thirds and honorable mentions in his chosen categories. In addition to his 2000 "Photograph of the Year," Beral also holds a first place from the BBC''s 1994 Wildlife Photographer of the Year contest, and honors in several underwater photography competitions. He also placed second in two of three categories in the California Academy of Science''s California Wild Contest this year.
Beral''s advice for the aspiring photographer? Take some classes from outstanding individuals in the field, he said. Beral noted that he had instruction from Arthur Morris, a renown bird photographer and author on the subject.
"Take lessons and learn how to do it first," said Beral. "You''ll be less frustrated. If you get a good teacher, you can learn more in one day of class than in one year of taking bad photos."
Beral''s photograph is featured in the March - April issue of Outdoor California, available now. In addition to Beral''s photograph, more than 25 other photographs from 10 categories are featured. Outdoor California received more than 500 entries in its 2000 contest, and competition was fierce.
As has been Outdoor California''s tradition for the past six years, the magazine focuses on endangered species in it''s March-April issue, along with the Photography Award Program. This year''s issue includes stories on the red-legged frog and three species of fox in California: kit fox, island fox, and Sierra Nevada red fox.
by Joe Reynolds