Sand as a Giant Reflector
Sand, in large quantities such as at the beach, can be a great natural light reflector. Large hats can be great for flagging or blocking the light. With a high sun lighting the sand and a wide-brimmed hat shading the entire body, nice portrait lighting is readily available.
The Canon EF 70-200mm f/4L IS II USM Lens is a great beach portrait lens. The focal lengths this lens offers naturally push the photographer to the ideal focus distances for pleasing portrait perspectives. They are also narrow enough to eliminate the distractions commonly found on beaches.
200mm f/4.0 1/400s ISO 100
Gulls Trailing a Trawler
Sometimes in photography less is more. In this minimalist image, the white boat stands out against the dark blue water and sky with gulls and a wake trailing.
I typically want my subjects moving into the frame, but wakes, contrails, flocks of gulls, etc. seem like part of the subject and I'll often moving the main subject toward the right side of the frame to include the trail.
200mm f/5.6 1/400s ISO 100
Laughing Gull, Island Beach State Park
Here are some tips for a sure-thing bird photo.
First, photograph with a level camera which means from the same level as the bird, potentially right at sand level when the bird is tight in the frame. The bird tight in the frame also lends to a successful bird photo.
The bird being oriented parallel to the imaging sensor usually works well and you can seldom go wrong with the head facing straight forward or angled slightly toward the camera. If you can see through the hole on the bird's beak, you are likely at least close to parallel. The bird is nearly centered in the frame with some extra space in the direction it is looking. Bonus points are awarded if the entire feet are visible.
A close bird, long focal length, wide aperture, and distant and uncluttered background combine to create a strong blur that makes the bird stand out.
Direct sunlight from low and directly behind the camera usually works well and the catchlight in the eye brings life to the subject.
The Canon EF 70-200mm f/4L IS II USM Lens is an awesome lens and a great bargain but it is not the foremost bird photography lens ... unless the bird wants your lunch.
200mm f/4.0 1/1250s ISO 160
Pink Coneflower with the Canon EF 70-200mm f/4L IS II USM Lens
One of my favorite flowers bloomed while I was reviewing the Canon EF 70-200mm f/4L IS II USM Lens. I browsed the selection in the garden and clipped my favorite.
You have a Delta 1 Grip-It Single Arm with 1" Clamp in your kit, right? This flower's stem is clamped into the Delta Grip-It and the stand (with added adhesive rubber feet added) is positioned on a large rock in the shade with a distant, nicely-colored background. The dark green color is from trees and the brighter green color in the center of the frame is from grasses and weeds. Moving in to this lens's very short minimum focus distance, zooming to 200mm, and opening the aperture to f/5.6 (chosen over f/4 for slightly more depth of field) produced this attractive result.
200mm f/5.6 1/60s ISO 100