Photographing a Pair of Tundra Swans in Flight

/, Birds, Box Elder County, Tundra Swans, Utah/Photographing a Pair of Tundra Swans in Flight

Tundra Swans lifting off from the waterTundra Swans lifting off from the water – Nikon D500, f8, 1/2000, ISO 500, Nikkor 500mm with 1.4x TC, natural light

Last year at this time I couldn’t get to the auto tour loop at Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge due to flooding caused by warm temps combined with early spring runoff that flooded parts of northern Utah including the roads on the refuge which meant I didn’t get many photos of the Tundra Swans before they headed north to their breeding grounds on the arctic tundra of Canada and Alaska.

I seem to be making up for that this year by photographing the swans as often as I can when I am out on the refuge. Yesterday there were plenty of swans out in the marshes, a few of them were resting on the thin ice that has formed after a couple a cold nights and chilly days, just a week ago there wasn’t any ice to be seen at all because of the abnormally warm temperatures we have had.

Pair of Tundra Swans in flightPair of Tundra Swans in flight – Nikon D500, f8, 1/2500, ISO 500, Nikkor 500mm with 1.4x TC, natural light

When the Tundra Swans lift off from the water I try to isolate just one or two birds to track because when there are any more than that I can almost predict with certainty that I am going to have out of focus swans in the photo. When I focus on just one or two I can usually have enough depth of field to get them in focus and sharp.

Two Tundra Swans flying over Bear River MBRTwo Tundra Swans flying over Bear River MBR – Nikon D500, f8, 1/2500, ISO 500, Nikkor 500mm with 1.4x TC, natural light

Yesterday I was able to lock on to a pair of Tundra Swans lifting off and taking flight over brilliant blue water in beautiful light with the marsh and mountains in the background.  I took 31 images of these swans as they flew towards the east and passed in front of me before they turned towards the north.

Tundra Swan pair in flightTundra Swan pair in flight – Nikon D500, f8, 1/2500, ISO 500, Nikkor 500mm with 1.4x TC, natural light

As I photographed this pair of Tundra Swans in flight I could hear the whir of their wings and the calls of the other swans that were still on the water and also getting ready to lift off.

Tundra Swan duo in flightTundra Swan duo in flight – Nikon D500, f8, 1/3200, ISO 500, Nikkor 500mm with 1.4x TC, natural light

Being at the refuge early is the morning is always a joy for me because I am filled with a sense of peace while I am there and that feeling is amplified when I can photograph the Tundra Swans that are at home in the marshes during the winter.

I wish I could package that feeling, wrap it with a bow and send it out to everyone today but I will simply wish you all a Happy Valentines Day instead.

Life is good.




  1. Margot Rawlins February 14, 2018 at 6:43 pm

    I agree with all of the other comments. These are so crisp, clean and perfect. Your skills continue to amaze me, Mia.

  2. Lynnette C February 14, 2018 at 5:37 pm

    That sentence: …….I could hear the mind of their wings and the calls of the other swans….. WOW!!!

  3. Larrry Muench February 14, 2018 at 3:21 pm

    Beautiful shots, Mia. It was great seeing you out there a few days ago. Because it was overcast, I was shooting my 500mm wide open and my shots were not sharp (I’ve never calibrated that old lens). Went out again this morning and there weren’t as many swans in the SE corner but there also weren’t any other vehicles out there. Even though it was somewhat overcast again, I shot at f6.3 and f7.1 and they turned out much better. Still can’t get the BIF shots like you do though! Happy Valentines Day to you too!

  4. Pepe Forte February 14, 2018 at 11:20 am

    Holy cow! What a great Valentine’s Day treat! These images make me feel like I’m actually there! Stunning shots Mia. Happy Valentines Day.

  5. Wally Jones February 14, 2018 at 9:13 am

    You succeeded in sending that peaceful feeling, Mia. Thank you.

    Superb creatures beautifully photographed.

  6. Marty K February 14, 2018 at 9:10 am

    Spectacular shots, Mia. I think #3 may be my favorite because of the background behind these two magnificent birds.

    Happy Valentine’s Day back to you! 🙂

  7. April Olson February 14, 2018 at 7:42 am

    Beautiful, Tundra Swans, one of my favorite things. It kills me to have to work on sunny weekdays!

  8. Liz Cormack February 14, 2018 at 7:06 am

    And what a Valentine’s present…..gorgeous Tundra Swans! Your flight photos of any birds in flight are so awesome.

  9. Bob mcpherson the February 14, 2018 at 6:54 am

    Drop dead gorgeous, Mia, happy Valentine’s day to you too.

  10. Suzanne McDougal February 14, 2018 at 5:38 am

    Gorgeous, like ballet dancers. Thanks. I never get to go until school gets out. June and Tundra Swans don’t go together, so I live vicariously through your photos which are always the best part of my morning.

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