Francois Portmann is a professional photographer with an impressive portfolio. Though originally from Switzerland he now makes New York City his home where I (Corey) have had the great fortune of meeting him, birding with him, and photographing wildlife with him. He gets images that make other photographers want to scream at their inadequacies and we here at 10,000 Birds often link to some of his more amazing galleries. Here, for the first time, we present one of his galleries on 10,000 Birds. If you like what you see please leave a comment telling Francois you want more. (And also make sure to click on over to his own blog for more great images!) All images and text here are copyrighted by Francois Portmann and don’t let us catch you stealing them…

I encountered a pair of White-throated Dippers (Cinclus cinclus) during my trip to Switzerland last summer. Their habitat is fast-running, rocky streams and rivers where they feed on aquatic invertebrates and insects, larvae, mollusks and small fish.

I know just that kind of place near my hometown in northwest Switzerland, a gorge that cuts through the southernmost range of the Jura Mountains. As one of the few natural crossings from the Swiss Plateau to the Rhine, it has been extensively traveled since the Roman Empire and earlier.

White-throated Dipper by Francois Portmann

White-throated Dippers nest by the water, usually in a crack or hollow in the rock or bridge support. They have their own unique hunting technique – they”dip” their heads in the water and walk on the bottom of streams, using their tail and wings to get downward pressure and even “swim” underwater.

White-throated Dipper on the hunt by Francois Portmann

Their aquatic adaptations include dense plumage and a membrane that seals the bird’s nostrils during dives like the one above. They are great birds and fun to watch and photograph.

Cinclus cinclus by Francois Portmann

White-throated Dipper in Switzerland by Francois Portmann

White-throated Dipper by Francois Portmann

White-throated Dipper (Cinclus cinclus) by Francois Portmann

White-throated Dipper by Francois Portmann

White-throated Dipper in perfect habitat by Francois Portmann

How did I take these pictures? The lighting situation is tricky down at the bottom of a canyon. Direct sunlight is spotty and harsh, shining through tree foliage and open spots. Of course, a speedlite can help fill the shadows, but I always prefer natural light first. Therefore timing is key, when the sun hits the sheer vertical cliffs (the side without trees) and serves as a giant reflector. This will provide enough soft light for images at decent shutter speed.

These pictures shot with a 300mm prime lens and 1.4x extender at f 4 and a shutter speed between 1/400 and 1/2000, using a monopod support.

We’re sure you liked these shots of White-throated Dippers.  If you want to see more great images of birds check out our big and growing page of photo galleries, 10,000 Clicks!


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