During my stay at Red River Camps in northern Maine this past summer, a pair of loons were raising their chicks on Island Pond. Especially unusual was that the chicks were very small for the mid-August timeframe. The loon's first nest had been attacked by a predator and the adult pair started over. With winter arriving early here, there was concern that the chicks would not be able to fly in time for migration and biologists were monitoring their progress. But, having small chicks available was a bonus from a photography perspective.
Hanging with these loons required a watercraft and a small canoe was my best option. A light wind made keeping the canoe properly positioned a big challenge and probably more time was spent paddling than photographing. The sun was setting and maintaining a position between the sun and the loons was the goal.
The adults were constantly diving for food and moving around the lake while doing so, but fortunately, they were in the area of the lake receiving the latest direct light when the sun went behind the trees. The color difference between shade light and a late day sun light is dramatic with shade light typically being very cool and direct setting sun light being very warm. As the sun went down, the water became shaded before the shoreline and shaded water usually shows reflections very well.
The photograph shared here was only lightly processed. The primary edit was selecting a custom white balance point using a patch of the adult loon's solid white feathers as the basis. Those feathers were in the shade and the result was a color temperature setting of 10500 K being established. At this setting, the reflected sunlit background becomes very golden and a slight saturation increase (+18 on a -100 to 100 scale in Lightroom) finishes off the liquid gold.
Be looking for opportunities to use the light color mismatch of sun and shade to your creative advantage when out photographing. The subject in the shade, background in the sun option as shared here often works well, but the opposite can also work, creating a blue-toned background with a properly white-balanced subject.
For those with Nikon-based kits, the Nikon 200-500mm f/5.6E AF-S VR Lens is a great option for handheld wildlife photography.
The D850 is my current Nikon camera of choice for this purpose.
A larger version of this image is available on Flickr.