With onshore winds, Ocean Beach is my favorite place to photograph ravens. Along the Great Highway, these feathered balls of onyx launch into the wind like superheroes, hovering over the beach below with tails trailing like capes.
I had some time to kill after an appointment in the Sunset. I grabbed my camera and headed to a drizzly beach — uncommonly drizzly and cold in May, even for San Francisco.
I saw just smattering of ravens. A small group1 was landlubbing that day, poking around the beach for snacks, and gazing into the surf shrouded with mist.
Common Ravens (Corvus corax) are birds of complex intellect and — to my eye — glorious color and sheen. I came upon this blog post — Just How Smart Are Ravens? — which discusses, in depth, a published study on the raven’s capacity to learn and use logic to solve problems. Additional studies designed by Dr. Louis Lefebvre used an avian IQ test to measure the avian intellectual hierarchy. Corvids (crows, ravens, jays) scored at the top of the intelligence scale, followed by falcons, then hawks.
In my experience, Ravens not inured to a telephoto lens are quick to suspect something’s amiss and flee. Unless they’re foraging regularly among humans, I keep my distance from ravens to get the photograph.
The conditions on this day were gray, bleak, and wet, and requiring ISO800 on my Olympus E-520. The E-520 isn’t weather-sealed like my E-3 but I sometimes push it a bit if the rain isn’t torrential. Otherwise, I’ll mock up a plastic bag workaround. I did a bit of processing on these shots with Photoshop — some NR (noise reduction), leveling, and sharpening.
1A flock of ravens is also known as an “Unkindness of Ravens.” Isn’t that just wrong?