Aviantrics

You’re absolutely correct, aviantrics is not a word. It should be, so I created it. It describes the “things that birds do”, and below I suggest how we can profit from it photographically.

When I first switched  to make my photographic mainstream the subject of nature, I realized quickly that landscapes and birds are the most popular subjects with most photographers.

Many photographers acquired their interest in photography when they were a child and would take snapshots of all the beautiful places they have visited. Perhaps on a family vacation. Today, the cell phone is usually the first camera.

Wildlife is clearly the other favorite subject of nature photographers, with birds being the most popular form of such. Birds are often colorful, they surround us in the outdoors whether we are taking a ride in the country, or a drive along a lake, or in our own backyards, and they do interesting things.

Close-up photography is clearly the least popular genre of nature photography, as it is challenging to find subjects (especially insects and such), and requires a lot of bending, stretching and getting dirty.  That said, there are an increasing number of macro photographers.

In my opinion, the most enthusiastic group is bird photographers. Wildlife in general yes, but especially birds. I have belonged to several birding groups in my life, and they are lively, enthusiastic groups, with diverse opinions. Some are serious photographers but almost all of them do make pictures. While I think flight/action images have become the most popular, any image with a bird in it is enough to attract the attention of birders, photographers, and especially self-described “bird photographers”.

One thing all bird photographers have in common is the continual quest of getting close enough to make detail producing images. Images that tell others what that species looks like.

Long lenses of quality and tele-extenders are expensive but worth the cost if you are serious about photographing birds. Fortunately, the need to create super close-ups while in the field has been eclipsed by cropping via software programs when you get home.  It is still preferable from a quality standpoint to get any given photo as good, and as finished as you can when you are in the field.

Long lenses and/or cropping at home, are often necessary when making portraits that are closer than “full body”. In other words, headshots and near headshots. Below are three such pictures.

All of today’s images were taken some time ago and this first one was captured in Colorado in 2007. The bird is a Clarke’s Nutcracker and it is a crop from a full body portrait, In other words, it needed a small amount of cropping.

Making a bird portrait is like making a portrait of any animal including a human, the pose, the eyes and what seems like the expression, are important, and so is any background that shows.

Frankly, to me this looks like a formal portrait. The sort of which generals posed for in the 19th Century. The woodland background is nicely out of focus and therefore absent of bothersome details.

This second image of an American Kestrel is similar in so far as the clean background, and the pose of the bird, but the entire bird minus the tail feathers is showing. A little less formal because of it.

Take note, both pictures are composed. There is space for them to look into, rather than in back of their heads.

Our third image also uses the same compositional philosophy. This one however, lacks the uncompetitive background of the others. The bird is a female Northern Bobwhite Quail. She is a prairie or sparse woodland bird. While the grasses in the background make for an image that is less clean, they also help tell her story of how and where she lives.

Different images can say different things.

In each of the three images above, there is a catch light in the eye that breathes life into the picture.

As popular as close-up shots are, they are in no way the only way to tell the story of a bird.

This female Wood Duck with her five little babies following her, needed some room to travel.

Even this image is composed. They are traveling to our left where most of the space is. This image leaves very little space in the direction where they came from, because, well, they’ve already been there.

The fact is, with birds that are doing something, it usually take multiple pictures to tell the story of what it is that they are doing.

This Cormorant was finishing drying its wings following a dive when I got my car stopped and poked my lens out of the window. I was fortunate to capture several differing poses.

A little leg stretch in the first image, followed by a full body contortion.

It is nice to have cooperative models and Cormorants drying themselves are very cooperative. These were both made with my 500mm lens.

Go out early, and stay out late.  Birds are often very active during these hours and at the very least, they preen a lot. The early light was still warm when I made this image of a Snowy Owl and she could not have done a nicer job of striking interesting poses. Faces are not “always” necessary for compelling pictures.  In fact, when I created images like this, very often I stopped thinking of them as owls and so forth. My viewfinder became filled with light, shape, texture and design.

Some birds are all class. This male Northern Pintail struck many an artful pose for me and did so on calm waters and in nice light.

Once again, photography is light, and mood evoking light will make your photos better and more salable.

Of course, birds are active critters and stopping some of their action is always fun.

This female Ruby-throated Hummingbird is only a foot or so from a Hummingbird feeder. I focused on the feeder, and then photographed birds when they were to its left, but at equal distance from me as was the feeder. I used no flash but I was able to achieve a shutter speed of 1/640 sec. with an aperture of f/8.

The dissolving wings are sort of an artistic add on to the picture. We as viewers know that wings do not look that way. As photographers we also know, that Hummingbirds wings beat really fast, because even a shutter speed of 1/640th sec. will not render them sharply.

Ordinary, can become, well,  too ordinary. Always look for unique locations and poses.

This young Barn Swallow was running back and forth between two boards on the side of a boardwalk.  It periodically peeked out and scolded me as if to say, who are you and what do you want?

An image like this becomes sort of “humanistic” as we can imagine a human being doing this.

God Bless,
Wayne

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