I thought it was time to take a break from Covid-19, politics and the
“new order” of our social aspects of life, and just talk some
photography. You know, the reason this bog was created.
There are endless subjects for photographers. Certainly among nature
photographers, the subject of birds immediately comes to mind. While
there are countless types of images to make of birds, the simple,
usually elegant but sometimes haphazard, discipline of photographing
one bird at a time, is among my favorites.
Every species of bird has some characteristics that belong exclusively
to that breed. All birds are also individuals and honoring them one
by one for that individualism, was certainly one of my favorite things
to do as a photographer.
One of the very definitions (photographically) of elegant simplicity
is one bird on a perch, with an uncluttered background.
Still waters run deep, and one elegant bird on quiet waters can be as
satisfying of a background as is a clean and simple sky.
I always took what I could get, but I also spent great periods of time
searching for powerful combinations. Elegant + elegant, = very
Northern Pintail male
Unusual poses are always good. A male Eastern Meadowlark posing and
singing are common subjects, and they are among the classics when it
comes to one bird on a perch. What’s unusual with this shot is of
course, that he has his back turned to us. I have known photographers
who would have patiently waited for the bird to turn around and not
clicked off a shot until he did. I have hundreds of images of the
front of Male Meadowlarks displaying, but only a few from the back.
Thinking back to the Pintail photo, we see here that different poses
and more importantly different compositions can change the mood of an
This male Blue-winged Teal could not have struck a more information
providing, yet elegant pose for me. Notice that I did not want a
perfect mirror image here. In keeping with that idea, I almost cut the
top of his head off in the reflection.
Some birds are elegant because of their color or feather patterns,
some are just elegant. They move elegantly and they quite naturally
strike elegant poses.
Such is the case with a Trumpeter Swan.
The absence of elegance, is often times supplanted with cuteness or
even comical appearances. In the case of male Buffleheads they are
both cute and comical, but they are still elegant due to their striking
coloration around the head.
Of course, single bird shots can also include action. This male
Mallard was taking a bath. You might say, aren’t they taking a bath
every time they get into the water?. Not really. This is what bath
time for most dabbling ducks looks like. At times, it borders on being
All water birds such as this Sora Rail shorebird, spend time out of
the water. Sharply catching a bird walking rapidly on land is actually
pretty challenging. Especially when you are follow focusing manually
as I was here, and did with most of my bird pix.
If walking is action, than surely bursting into flight is lots of
action. This Lesser Yellowlegs took to the air just as I was clicking
Often time photographers get lucky, but the need for luck is made
minimal with anticipation. Shorebirds break into flight at a moments
notice. I know that, and I was anticipating that it could happen at
What goes up must come down. This Rough-legged Hawk was actually
gliding down from a tree to the ground. Notice the “feathery” legs.
Hence forth, Rough-legged Hawk. Identifying characteristics in a photo,
is always a good thing.
Of course the close-up portrait, created either while in the field by
your physical position in relationship to the subject, or lens choice,
or at home via the crop, is the best way to provide future viewers
intimacy with a subject.
The close-ups of a Red-tailed Hawk and a Mourning Dove below show birds who are either in our world, or we are in theirs. They both appear (to me) to be deep in
thought. They are no longer a bird on a perch or a bird or in a pond.
Without perch or pond, we feel we know them personally. They are intimate photos.
Pairs, groups or entire flocks, are all great ways to capture birds
with your camera. Still, the simplicity of the shot and the personal
feelings of “knowing our subject” that we get from single bird shots,
can never be replaced.
Have a special day and God Bless,