South Jetty Birds – Venice, Florida

I was able to sneak away for a few hours the other day. The boss wasn’t looking; I guess that is a perk of being self-employed. I wanted to get way and just relax near the Gulf without a lot of hassle and large crowds. I ended up going to the South Jetty in Venice, Florida. This is an out of the way place, but still offers many different opportunities to photograph a variety of subjects. I also dusted off a lens that had low usage time, my 70mm-300mm. We bought this lens for some reason that I can’t remember now what for and it stayed on the shelf in the box. I have a 80mm-400mm lens, but it’s heavy and slow to focus. The 70-300 is much lighter and not to mention about half the cost of the 80-400. This was a great excuse to get out of the office and do some field “research”, anything to make the boss happy.

It was a beautiful day. There were minimum folks there and a nice cool breeze coming off the Gulf. As I got out of the car I noticed that the side of the jetty was loaded with brown pelicans and Snow Egrets. Granted, I was there the worst time of day lighting wise but I was just happy to be out. With the 70-300 fitted to my Nikon D300, it was time to see what this lens could do. I found a lone pelican pruning himself and I composed the frame and took the shot. It was then I realized that I had a black stallion sitting idol on the shelf all these years. This lens instantly grabbed focus on what I wanted and what I was seeing through the lens was razor sharp. I think all of the bird crap that is all over the rock completes the photo. Hey, what can I tell you? Check out the detail in the feathers. All I did to this photo is a slight contrast adjustment, crop and very slight sharpen.

 spencer pullen south jetty venice florida brown pelican pruningThe king pelican atop his crap covered throne. – Spencer Pullen © 2012

So that was a pretty easy test. The subject was pretty still and so was I. Now it was time to up the ante and see what this lens could do with a moving subject. There was a bunch of Royal Terns flying around looking for fish in the jetty. It was interesting watching these guys and they would tilt their heads back and forth to spy a fish. Then they would hover in mid air for a moment and they would go straight in the water to catch the fish. (I can hear all of my birding photo friends giving me a hard time now that I have photographed birds!) Again, the lens locked on and was crystal clear. I was shooting manual, JPG (only for speed sake) and continuous.

 spencer pullen south jetty venice florida royal tern flyingSpying lunch. – Spencer Pullen © 2012

So far I’m loving this lens and what it’s giving me. I walked down the jetty and I came across these clusters of pelicans.

 spencer pullen south jetty venice florida three brown pelicansThe three amigos – Spencer Pullen © 2012

Now it was time to shoot some of these Snowy Egrets. This can be a challenge since it’s in the middle of the day in harsh lighting. What I like to do is shoot for the highlights and open the shadows in Adobe Camera RAW. After photographing this fellow I checked my histogram on the back of the camera and it told me that there are details in them feathers. I also was impressed with the bokah that this lens was giving me. Check out the blurred background in the photo below.

 spencer pullen south jetty venice florida snow egret yellingThe little pissed off bird – Spencer Pullen © 2012

So far I’m really loving this lens. I wanted to shoot more action with it and see how it would perform. There were pelicans coming in for landing all over the place and they were skipping over the water before they finally just plopped down. I used the same settings as described earlier to get this photo.

 spencer pullen south jetty venice florida brown pelican coming in for landingTower, I’m coming in for landing. – Spencer Pullen © 2012

I looked up and I thought I was under attack, I saw a huge formation of pelicans coming my way. I adjusted my settings to get some longer depth of field.

 spencer pullen south jetty venice florida pelicans flying in formationLook out below! Bombs away! – Spencer Pullen © 2012

I found a comfy rock and made myself at home. There were fish that were getting pushed into the rocks from the wake when a boat would go by. There were Snowy Egrets waiting for an easy lunch at the shore. I noticed that one bird was playing with his food or just getting it in the right orientation so he could eat it. It looks as if this fish is going to get his last glimpse of Earth. Again, I was very impressed with the sharpness and detail this lens was giving me; I didn’t realize that I even caught the water droplets coming off the fish as he was trying to wiggle free, until I got home.

 spencer pullen south jetty venice florida snow egret eating fishFresh sushi. – Spencer Pullen © 2012

As I was getting ready to leave, that is when the fun began. I heard what I thought was a jet engine coming at me. I looked out into the Gulf of Mexico and I see this little red dot getting bigger and bigger. Here was a boater getting ready to come in. I was standing just on the other side of the “No Wake Zone”. This boater wasn’t exactly slowing down to heed what the sign was saying. But, this is my kind of boating. Anyone can go two miles an hour with their fishing pole dangling over the side. This guy has it figured out, boating wide open. In the high res version, you can see their hair is slicked straight back and even the skin on their face is rippled back, instant face lift! He had to be going 60 mph, what I was really waiting for was the front of the boat to come up and the boat would do a back flip, not good.

 spencer pullen south jetty venice florida speed boatRocket Man. – Spencer Pullen © 2012

So there you have it. If you need a longer lens that is affordable, fast and will hold detail well, I highly recommend the 70-300 lens. The one that I have is a Nikon ED version and worked very well for me. I would buy another one in a minute if this one were to need to be replaced.

Until next time…

Keep Your Glass Clean


  1. Very nice. You have some great shots.
    Making me think of Kentucky Fried Chicken!

  2. Nice job photographing the birds. I have gotten out of the habit of using the 70-300 lens myself. I need to dust it off and use it again. The IS “image stabilization” on my 80-400 has me spoiled. Carol E.

  3. I have the kit version of this lens and I use it all the time. It’s light and fairly fast. I have a 300 prime, but I use this one as my walk-around lens most of the time. Very nice pics with yours!

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