I think it’s common knowledge even among non-photographers, that a percentage of the wildlife photos you see today are crops. It’s easy to crop and make our subjects bigger, and we (photographers) sometimes believe that closer makes for a more impact heavy picture. I don’t disagree with that but I do think that all of us crop too often.
This Red-tailed Hawk below is an individual bird that I have photographed many times…..almost always on power lines. It is a bird that is both pretty and cooperative, and I have accepted those power lines as a part of my photos. I was physically close to this bird but a crop is still tempting. I actually like the second photo over the cropped photo that you see in the top shot. I love birds with talons and I enjoy showing them. Still it is a nice pose and that pose works well in the crop. We should be wondering what is that hawk looking at. Many photos pose questions, and others answer them.
I am somewhat “warbler deficient” as a bird photographer. I know photographers who have a warbler list that is amazing. I have photographed maybe eight species, and considering how long I have been doing this, that is not spectacular. I added this Pine Warbler in 2008 and I get as excited as a small child at Christmas when that happens. It is never easy getting these small “tree birds” in a clean and elegant image. I guess if I am proud of anything in my photography of small birds, it is the great mixture of those clean shots and nice habitat images that I have made over the years. At times I lacked patience but never persistence
There is nothing like a bird, some water, and a reflection. While a perfect mirrored image is beautiful, I love these shots where the reflection is not perfect. It is slightly garbled do to some moving water. You can see a wake in back of this Lesser Yellowlegs which tells us that the bird is slowly moving forward. If there hadn’t been a wake I would have composed this image with more space in the direction that the bird is looking. The wake tells us it is moving. The wake also becomes a part of the bird, so to speak. If you start with the wake and look to the end of the bird, it is about 2/3rds of the frame. Hmm…rule of thirds? If this had been a duck with a strong wake I might have even composed more into the right side of the frame. That would put an exclamation point on the movement of the bird.
Birds that are easy to work with, like the Northern Shoveler, are the species to get a variety of pictures with. Dabbling, flying, fishing, reflections and wing spread shots are all pretty easy with birds like this. Take advantage of that fact and get everything you can. Then treasure every unique image you make with those less cooperative birds.
Rising (and setting) Suns
Sunrise/sunset can bring a lot of different types of images. Combining both of today’s subjects is one such kind of shot. Below we find a misty morning and some Canada Geese.
I have made a lot of misty morning sunrises and the best place to get them in this part of the country, is called Bong State Rec. Area. There are a lot of foggy mornings here and when the rising sifts through that fog, a literal Firestorm is created.
Photographing sunrise/sunset is like any landscape/waterscape photography, there are different pictures to be made, and moving our camera/tripods and ourselves around for different views is important. The two pictures below were made within minutes of each other.
Most of my best sunrise photos were made before the sun ever reached the horizon, but I will usually stick around for shots to present themselves after the sun has peaked its head over the horizon. The sun itself can make an image dramatic.
Sunrises/sunsets don’t have to be a true scape. The sky itself, and the water itself can be your finished photo. You will truly make a variety of images and create a variety of moods, when you include sky or water only pictures.
The first image below is sky only and the following two are pretty obvious. I generally show you those soft and dreamy slow shutter speed shots of water only sunrise pictures, but I am not adverse to going for faster shutter speeds and giving those waves some definition.
The chills of winter have hit this part of the world. For those of you fairly new to bird photography winter can be a special season. Eagles, hawks, owls and ducks can all be easier photographic targets when the temperatures drop. Nocturnal or early morning birds will hunt later into the day. Bald Eagles will congregate where the water remains open below hydro-electric dams. Anywhere that fish producing waters aren’t frozen is where you will find diving ducks. Learn the order that the water in your area freezes and as the temperature dips, follow the open water. It can take several years to learn the best cold weather locations for hawks, owls and ducks, but you will prosper as a photographer if you do. Dress warm or shoot from your car.
The most important aspect of making a lot of good wildlife photographs, is not shutter speed, aperture, or composition. It is understanding animals and why and when they do what they do. Once you know how to find them, you can become a better technical and artist photographer of your subjects.
Have an awesome day and talk to you soon, Wayne
You said a mouthful…..the two most important things in being a wildlife photographer is knowledge…..of the equipment and the animal. It raises the percentage of keepers.
It is an on going education, but you will get more and better pictures if you pay attention. History repeats itself and that is so true with animals.